NAPLES, Fla. — Thousands of condo owners in Naples could be unable to pay bills, in some cases even their water and electric, if they don’t get access to money they say was stolen from them.
A new lawsuit in Collier County accuses a American Property Management Services of taking money from dozens of condo associations it was supposed to be managing.
We spoke to owners at one of the condos affected, Royal Bay Villas in Naples. They described feeling angry about being taken advantage of, but also fear and uncertainty about paying their bills.
“Just how bad is this? We don’t know,” said Lisa Venn, who owns a condo in Royal Bay. “(American Property Management) is saying he’s paying the bills every month and he’s not. That puts us in a vulnerable position. We don’t know how much we owe vendors.”
Royal Bay is one of 33 condos in Collier County who are suing American Property Management Services after they say the company took off with their association fees.
“We’re having to pick and choose what we’re paying right now,” said Laura Rigsby, president of the Royal Bay Villas Condo Association. “This morning the landscaping company came knocking on my door, telling me they need to get paid.”
Rigsby discovered in December that she didn’t have access to the association’s bank account, which was run by American Property Management.
She then found out the management company wasn’t paying vendors who do work like maintenance and landscaping.
In all, Rigsby said they should have more than Six Hundred Thousand Dollars in the bank — but she can’t access that money.
“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars per association, at least,” said lawyer Jason Hamilton Mikes, who is representing the condo associations. “When you multiple that by 33, we’re talking about significant sums of money.”
Mikes’s firm filed a civil suit against American Property Management on Jan. 3.
The people at Royal Bay have not been able to contact American Property Management owners since December.
On Monday, FOX4 went to the company office and it was locked. We also tried to call owner Orlando Ortiz, but his phone was shut off.
Royal Bay does have insurance that might be able to replace its lost funds, but they can’t file a claim until they get access to American Property Management’s records to see how much money they’ve lost.
“The thing I love about our community is we’re all pitching in to help,” Venn said. “Everybody is pitching in, saying, ‘I can pay a couple quarterly dues. We don’t know if that will be able to stem the tide until insurance maybe kicks in.”
American Property Management has until Feb. 2 to respond to the lawsuit, according to Mikes. We reached out to the company’s lawyer today and did not receive a response.