The administrator of an Aventura condominium has been arrested on charges of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and stealing cash from the building's laundry machines.
Donovan Staley, 33, administrator of the Admirals Port condo, was charged with organized fraud, grand theft and the use of a phone to plan a crime. He could face up to five years in prison.
Staley's arrest Tuesday was the first under new condo laws approved by the Florida Legislature in May. The charges were filed by the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, which had collaborated with legislators to tighten the condo laws.
“Donovan Staley abused the trust of the condo directors and owners to line his own pockets,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told a news conference Wednesday. “We want the community to know that the new law is going to make a difference.”
Staley, who was freed after posting a $20,000 bond, did not respond to telephone calls by El Nuevo Herald. His employers, the Castle Management Group in Plantation, also did not respond.
Authorities said Staley asked an electrical firm working in the building to add $6,000 to the invoice, and later pass him the money in exchange for a promise of future work.
The company owner, Alexander Lopez, submitted an invoice for $18,800 instead of his real $12,800 bill. But Lopez was cooperating with the condo's board of directors and they reported the bribe demand to Aventura police.
Staley met with Lopez Tuesday to receive the $6,000. He was arrested shortly afterward, with the cash in his pocket, police said. The new laws added criminal sanctions for condo directors or employees who accept bribes.
Police had already been looking into Staley's work. Director Jaye Chipy used a cellphone camera to record Staley allegedly taking money out of the condo's laundry machines. Authorities said he stole at least $3,000 from the machines and tried to bribe another employee to keep him from reporting the theft.
“This is unacceptable for our community,” said Aventura police chief Bryan Pegues.
An investigation titled “Condo Nightmares” by El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 documented how hundreds of condo owners had filed complaints about abuses year after year that were never investigated properly. To report condo fraud, call 305-471-TIPS.