Saturday, April 6, 2013

Missing Condo Funds

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Alexandra Seltzer
Published April 5, 2013
For years, acting as the president of a suburban West Palm Beach condo association, Harold Hart went to the treasurer of the association for her signature.
While suffering from diabetes, obesity, heart ailments and arthritis, the woman would sign her name away on checks, allowing the association’s money to go elsewhere without an explanation from Hart.
After the woman passed away, Hart started to sign her name himself.
Now, years later, Hart admitted to cashing those checks into his personal bank accounts, but again, without an explanation of what the money was used for.
Hart, 86, was arrested Sunday on a charge of organized fraud and grand theft. He was once the president of the Sussex C Condominiums, which is located west of Interstate 95 and north of Okeechobee Boulevard. After admitting to the fraud at a board meeting, he was demoted to acting president.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies found that the fraudulent acts started in 2008 and continued through last year. However, Hart admitted to the fraud going back to 2006.
Deputies were notified in February 2012 by condo owner Howard O’Brien, who said that Hart denied him access to the association’s bank records. O’Brien then spoke with deputies again in March 2012 to notify them that Hart admitted to misappropriating $32,390.86 from the association’s accounts. He said at the meeting that the money was deposited into an account in Tallahassee, according to a sheriff’s probable cause affidavit.
Investigators then met with the association’s new president, Elizabeth McDaniel, who said that she found the association’s account had only $956 in it. She also found that Hart couldn’t even keep up with his maintenance bill, as he issued a check that later bounced.
Deputies continued investigating and found that the checks were signed by Hart and Anna Randazzo, a board member.
Randazzo died in August 2011, however, her signature was still appearing on the association’s checks after that.
Randazzo’s son, Joseph Randazzo, told deputies that his mother was the acting treasurer for a number of years until she died. She suffered from multiple ailments and was hooked up to an oxygen machine for about six months before she died.
Randazzo told deputies that Hart would come into his mother’s room requesting her signature on the association’s checks. Because she trusted Hart, she never asked him what the checks were for.
Deputies then spoke with Hart in July 2012. Hart said to them, “how much money are we talking about,” and when deputies answered, he corrected them with what he thought the correct amount was.
Hart admitted to depositing about $33,000 into his Bank of America account and explained that he was using the money to pay vendors in cash.
When asked why he wouldn’t just use the association’s account, Hart said, “It seemed like the way to do it at the time,” the affidavit says. Hart did not give deputies an explanation as to where the money was or what it was used for.
The association has gotten back most of the stolen money from their insurance company, said O’Brien, who is now the association’s treasurer.
He said that he never suspected Hart of doing such a crime as he was a “nice guy that everybody liked.”
He offered advice to other condo owners: “Any owner has to be aware of the financial status of their association and always request everything they’re allowed to request following the Florida statutes.”