Yes, I know, everybody – even the worst criminal – deserves a defense. So they say!
But what if the attorney knows -- or should know -- that crimes are being committed but is making good money willing to cover up for the criminals and are thereby prolonging the crimes to be committed?
Shouldn’t the attorney be named as a defendant in the
prosecution of the crime?
In a recent op-ed published by the Miami Herald discussing Red Flags to Watch for Fraud occurring in a community association, Fort Myers-based attorney Rob Caves, who works with the Fort Lauderdale-based Becker law firm, was quoted: “A significant red flag is when financial information is not readily available and not timely provided by the association.”
Obviously his co-workers on the east-coast of Florida didn’t care much about his statement, because some of them are working very hard trying to prevent owners from getting the financial records of their condo association.
Remember the court fights about financial records in the Boca View Condominium in Boca Raton? [ Boca condo board loses bid to withhold financial records from ‘troublemakers’ and Boca View Condominium – A cash cow for Becker & Poliakoff ] These were serious attempts to prevent owners from inspecting the financial records of the association. Owners suspect fraudulent actions by the board, but are prevented from seeing the actual records, FS 718 specifically allows the owners to do. According to Becker attorney Rob Caves these court cases are definitely a “RED FLAG”.
In my opinion the actions of attorney Hilton Napoleon, II were much worse. For many years he helped the board of the Hammocks Community Association, Inc. to continue embezzling association funds (alleged more than $2 million) by writing cease and desist letters to owners, helping the sitting board to hold a hotly disputed election and even filed lawsuits in Federal Courts against Investigating Police Officers and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, trying to quash subpoenas to get the records for their investigations. He even defended to 400% increase in dues, using the lame excuse that given inflated costs and the fact that the association’s low fees hadn’t been raised in seven years, “it was well past time to catch up.” [ Hammocks homeowners revolt over massive HOA fee hikes ].
In my opinion the association boards would not have been able to hide the financial records for so many years without the “help” of these attorneys. If the board members would have been stopped earlier, when the owners demanded the records that would have shown the embezzlement and other scams, the financial damages would have been much less.
I could list a lot of other Florida community associations -- homeowners' and condo owners' associations -- where owners are facing the same problems. While condo owners, minimum according to the Florida statutes 718.501, have a government agency they should be able to complain to [the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes totally fails to do its duty], homeowners living in mandatory homeowners' associations regulated by FS 720 have nowhere to go. This allows criminals to fleece association funds without being prosecuted -- in a majority of cases. It's much easier to steal a million dollars from association funds than to rob a bank. Why do our legislators think so many owners voted against fully funded reserves? Owners know full well how unprotected their funds really are.
That leaves the question: Shouldn’t attorneys who help to facilitate these crimes be charged as well and held accountable?
Or is it ok that these attorneys are using the association funds as their “private piggy bank” – as Judge Beatrice Butchko phrased it during her recent ruling [ ‘You guys are brave’: Judge places Hammocks Community Association in receivership ] in the case of the Hammocks, appointing a receiver for the Hammocks to sort out the financial mess created by the former board members.
In my opinion we would see a lot less scams, fraud and embezzlement if these attorneys wouldn’t be willing to help these board members to commit and cover up these crimes.