Condo crime fighters are kickback case heroes

Success in bringing charges against four people in a recent condo

fraud case has made the lead investigator and key residents into stars.

Article Courtesy of Miami Herald


Published May 30, 2007

Calls have been coming in from condominiums across South Florida to the people behind the Parker Plaza Estates investigation, all asking the same questions:

How did you do it?

And can you help me?

The case led to four arrests and uncovered at least $1.4 million bilked from unit owners at the Hallandale Beach condo, with the money going back to a few select people instead of actual building needs, according to Hallandale Beach police.

The story caught the attention of condo owners across the region, and people from Miami Beach to Palm Beach County have been calling those who cracked the case for advice.

Current condo board president Don Pinkus was one of the residents who suspected wrongdoing. He helped gather evidence and brought it to Hallandale Beach police Detective Eric Williams.


Pinkus gets two or three calls a day, which he doesn't mind.

''We're more than happy to give anybody guidance who wants to call,'' said Pinkus, 68.

Williams said he explains how residents can get their local police to listen to them, using Parker Plaza as an example.

The key part, he said, is going to police with documents showing wrongdoing, like canceled checks or bizarre contracts. A hunch that something is amiss isn't enough to get a police investigation started.

''There is a lot of burden left on the residents of the condos and incoming boards to develop the evidence,'' Williams said.

Williams said he left his first meeting with Parker Plaza residents with half a box full of documents. Many more boxes followed.

''They did a superb job,'' Williams said.

Another key is patience. The Parker Plaza case took 17 months, and it still continues.

Residents estimate they lost about $4 million based upon contracts showing how much was charged in the contracts versus how much they estimate the work should have cost. This leaves about $2.6 million still unaccounted for.


The four men charged so far: former condo president Joseph Greenberg, 83; independent contractor Ira Silver, 62; former Parker Plaza manager Robert Hittner, 59; and building maintenance supervisor Angel Ramos, 77.

Now the investigation is focusing on whether other contractors set up similar kickback schemes at Parker Plaza. Williams also has taken statements from people at other Hallandale Beach condos, which he declined to name.

Williams and Pinkus said they were glad to help as many people as they can. But don't expect them to actually investigate your condo.

Most of the condos are outside Detective Williams' jurisdiction -- Hallandale Beach is only 4.5 square miles in Broward's southeast corner -- so he can't look into many of the claims.

As for Pinkus, the retired U.S. Customs officer said he only works for his building.

''I try to help them as much as I can,'' he said. ``But I'm not for hire.''

Detective Eric Williams says documents are key to Parker Plaza Estates investigation.