Condo worker lived lavishly

A fourth person turned himself in to police in connection with a Hallandale Beach condo scheme.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By Tonya Alanez

Published May 29, 2007

Angel Ramos' lifestyle as a longtime Hallandale Beach condo maintenance supervisor seemed curious to some, even a bit lavish: He had an extensive wine collection, took 30-day vacations and drove a shiny E-class Mercedes-Benz.

''He lived like a millionaire, not a man making $70,000 in today's world,'' said Sy Kessler, a longtime owner at the Parker Plaza Estates condos who knew Ramos more than 30 years.

Police think there may be a reason.

Wearing a yellow Ralph Lauren sweater, Ramos, 77, turned himself in at Broward County's main jail on Monday and was charged with felony organized fraud.

He is the fourth person arrested in connection with what police are calling an elaborate condo kickback scheme that allegedly bilked unit owners at Parker Plaza Estates out of at least $1.4 million.

He would have been arrested with the three others, but Ramos was on vacation, Hallandale Beach police said.

Ramos' attorney, David Bogenschutz, said his client is not guilty.

''If there are any improprieties in that condominium, I haven't seen anything yet that shows that he's part of [the alleged scheme],'' Bogenschutz said.

A woman who answered the phone at Ramos' home Monday said the family ``had nothing to say at this point.''

Friendly. Outgoing. Social. That's what other condo owners at Parker Plaza had to say about Ramos after his arrest Monday.

People said Ramos was a friend and neighbor. He had worked at the condo for more than 30 years -- about as long as the building had been standing -- and eventually bought a unit there.

But police describe a different man.

They say Ramos was part of a calculating gang that skimmed money from a fund earmarked for renovations and upkeep of the 520-unit building at 2030 S. Ocean Dr.

The group included former condo president Joseph Greenberg, 83; independent contractor Ira Silver, 62; and former Parker Plaza manager Robert Hittner, 59, authorities said.

This is how the scheme worked, according to police:

A board member would work with two condo association employees to create overestimates for work that needed to be done at Parker Plaza. Condo manager Hittner would make recommendations for the work. Silver, the contractor, would collect the money, cash the checks and give some back.

Ramos, whose job was to oversee the condo's porters and make sure everything worked properly in the building, stopped working as the maintenance chief two years ago after a new board came in and cleaned house.

Friends recalled consoling Ramos when his wife died after an illness, and when his son needed a kidney transplant. They congratulated him when he remarried. Ramos was always helpful and a good worker, said those who knew him.

''He was a good maintenance engineer. No one ever realized what was happening here, '' said Don Pinkus, a retired U.S. Customs officer who lives in the condo and had gone to dinner several times with Ramos.

''He was social, friendly and pleasant,'' Kessler said. ``But he's one of the people who had his hand in my back pocket.''