Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published September 5, 2008
A Broward County man who stole nearly $1 million
from a condominium community made up primarily of trusting senior citizens
will spend the next 20 years in prison and will have to pay the money back
with interest, a judge ruled Friday.
Christopher Winkelholz, 27, preyed on the residents
of the Whitehall Condominium Association in Davie for more than two years
before he was caught as he was about to flee the country to Argentina in
2007, prosecutors said.
''This was a complex scheme to defraud those who
trusted you,'' said Circuit Judge Pedro Dijols, who also sentenced
Wilkelholz to 15 years' probation. "These people saw you as their
knight in shining armor, and that made it easier for you to do your
Police found that Winkelholz befriended neighbors at
the condominium, 1527 White Hall Dr., and was elected treasurer of the
board, which gave him access to the group's funds. He then set up a fake
cleaning-service company and wrote checks from the condo association's
account to the phony company, forging the names of some residents.
He was caught when one of the names he forged on a
check was that of a deceased, former resident.
In total, Wilkenholz stole $920,000, which he used
to take expensive trips, buy fancy cars and live a lavish lifestyle,
prosecutors said. He was convicted of grand theft and forgery earlier this
''He is a parasite who lived off the sweat of other
people,'' said condo resident Peter Trapani, the man who first questioned
Winkelholz about the association's funds. "He was a trusted friend
and a neighbor, and he robbed us.''
Trapani said six families have gone into foreclosure
since the theft and one family is in bankruptcy. ''That money could have
made a difference,'' he said.
The scheme started in January 2005, when Winkelholz
moved into the condominium. He worked as a handyman and helped many of the
elderly couples before seizing his opportunity to join the association
board, prosecutors said.
After Hurricane Wilma hit the area in 2005,
Winkelholz persuaded the board to impose a special assessment to pay for
repairs. He used the money to help buy three new cars, a boat and travel
to Argentina and the Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.
minimal repairs were made at the condominium.
Davie residents: Imprison condo chief who stole