Hallandale condo kickback case moves closer to trial

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Rafael Olmeda

Published August 5, 2012


Three men accused of ripping Hallandale Beach condo owners out of nearly $3 million in an illegal kickback scheme took a step closer to trial Friday when prosecutors announced they were withdrawing any plea offers in the five-year-old case.
The alleged fraud at Parker Plaza Estates Condos was one of the largest such cases in Broward County and originally involved four defendants. Former association president Joseph Greenberg accepted a plea deal in 2007 and was sentenced to 7 years probation. He also had to pay $250,000 in restitution and surrender ownership of his $290,000 unit to the association.


Former building manager Robert Hittner, former maintenance supervisor Angel B. Ramos, and plumbing contractor Ira Silver are accused of requiring contractors to kick back money for work done at the 520-unit high rise at 2030 S. Ocean Drive, from 2003 to 2006. The payments were allegedly tacked onto the cost of the work.

"It is the state's position that these defendants belong in prison," said Assistant State Attorney Don Tenbrook, who added that he would be willing to recommend against prison for Silver if the victims approved and he paid $400,000 in restitution.

Details of the withdrawn plea offers were not discussed in open court.

State investigators began looking at Parker Plaza in 2004, when the condo board tried to
pass a $14.3 million assessment to cover the

Defendants and lawyers appear before Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson, center, on Aug. 3, 2012. Defendant Robert Hittner is standing in the far left. Defendant Ira Silver is center, facing the judge with hands folded behind his back.

cost of replacing windows with impact glass. Owners balked and began digging into the association's books, ultimately contacting authorities about the alleged discrepancies they found.

Efforts to settle the case hit a wall, lawyers on Friday told Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson, who expects to begin the jury selection process in September.

Silver, through defense lawyer Fred Haddad, said he was willing to repay $350,000 but unable to come up with an extra $50,000 to placate the victims in the case. More than a dozen condo owners were at Friday's hearing. Through their civil attorney, Lisa Hermann, they rejected the offer.

"I'm really sorry that you're all not able to resolve it," said Levenson, warning both sides that they might not like the result of a jury trial.

The defendants have excellent defense lawyers, Levenson said. "You may not get the results you want from a trial," he cautioned the victims.

But the judge had warnings for the defendants as well.

"I think it's somewhat treacherous for you to put your liberty on the line over $50,000," he told Silver. To Hittner, 64, who's facing the most serious charges, Levenson said a guilty verdict would all but assure his death in prison.

Hittner and Ramos are each charged with three first-degree felony counts of fraud. Silver is charged with one count. Each count carries a maximum of 30 years in prison.