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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 21, 2022 4 months ago

Lawsuit accuses area property management company of embezzlement

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Lawsuit filed by Naples firm claims American Property Management Services won't release money or bank records
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

NAPLES — A Naples law firm has filed a lawsuit in Collier County against a property management company it alleges has taken funds belonging to nearly three dozen homeowner and condominium associations and kept the money for its owner’s benefits.

The firm, Hamilton Mikes, is suing on behalf of 34 associations that say American Property Management Services LLC will not hand over the funds entrusted to it and is refusing to turn over bank statements.

According to Florida’s Division of Corporations AMPS is owned and run by Orlando Miserandino Ortiz.

Jason Hamilton Mikes, managing partner at the firm Hamilton Mikes, says in an email to the Business Observer that because the associations do not have access to the funds in the accounts or records, it’s not possible to know the full extent of the damage.

“However, we filed affidavits with the complaint that evidence Orlando Miserandino Ortiz embezzled nearly $2 million in insurance settlement proceeds from just two associations and we have started uncovering additional evidence that each of…the plaintiffs are missing hundreds of thousands of dollars each from their reserve and operating accounts,” he writes.

“Multiply those losses times 34 and we are looking at potential damages in the ten(s) of millions of dollars.”

A phone number listed on APMS’ website would not take calls Friday, Jan. 21. The company also did not respond to an email and Facebook message seeking comment. No attorney is listed for APMS in court records.

The lawsuit claims APMS was contracted by the associations to provide management services. A part of those duties was being a steward to funds  entrusted to it. Instead, according to the lawsuit, the management company opened accounts at Wells Fargo Bank, which is also named in the lawsuit, and is refusing to give the associations access.

“The associations have reason to believe that the management company established these accounts in this manner to conceal accounting transactions and/or convert some or all of these funds which are or were in the accounts,” the suit reads.

Repeated attempts to get Wells Fargo to provide access to the accounts or to provide information on transactions have been rebuffed, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the reason for this is the only person authorized on the accounts is Miserandino Ortiz.

Wells Fargo’s attorney in the case did not respond to a request for comment.

Once the association has copies of the bank records, Hamilton Mikes says, the lawsuit will be amended to include more charges — breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud and misrepresentation.

In a press release announcing the lawsuit, Hamilton Mikes says APMS and its owners are under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and other federal authorities. The Secret Service’s Fort Myers field office would not confirm the investigation.

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