Condo owners face ﬁnancial losses
under receivers’ watch
By Brenda Medina & Enrique Flor
21 March 2016
Note: In Ontario we use the term
administrator while in the United States they use the term receiver.
Court Judge Beatrice Butchko said it is the responsibility of condo
owners to report irregularities by receivers. C.M. Guerrero
Rodolfo Rodríguez believed he had made a good investment for his
retirement when he bought a condo in Miami at a bargain price after the
real estate crisis.
The 74-year-old taxi driver fixed up the apartment he bought for
$20,000 in August 2011 and rented it to a family for $800 a month.
But there were hidden troubles at the Tropical Point condominium on
Northwest 15th Street and 15th Avenue. Like many other Miami-Dade
condominiums, its owners' association faced grave financial problems in
the wake of the crisis. Its funds were shrinking as some owners
defaulted on their mortgages and stopped paying the monthly maintenance
“their worst nightmare.”
And the board of directors had accepted a suggestion by the company
hired to collect the fees owed, APG Partners LLC, to ask a judge in a
Miami-Dade civil court to appoint a receiver who would help to fix the
financial problems. Rodríguez and other owners, including some former
members of the board, now say the receiver and companies linked to her
became “their worst nightmare.”
Tropical Point is one of many Miami-Dade condos whose directors went to
court to request the appointment of a receiver to help them regain
their financial stability. In theory, the receivers take over units
that are vacant or have defaulted on their mortgages, rent them and
pass the income to the owners' association to make up for the owners
who are not paying their maintenance fees. In exchange, the receiver is
allowed to pocket a set percentage of the rent.
During the 18 months that Caridad Alina Ortega, the receiver appointed
by Judge José Rodríguez, was in charge of Tropical Point, some of the
owners paid thousands of dollars for maintenance and their debts, as
well as special assessments. But conditions never improved, according
to the testimony of several residents of the complex, which also faced
a lien by the city of Miami. The electricity and water bills were not
paid, and elevators and fire alarm and sprinklers were not repaired.
Barely one month after her appointment, Ortega put a lien on
Rodríguez's unit for allegedly falling behind on payments of a special
assessment to repair the elevator and fix up his apartment. The bill
totaled $3,754, including late fees.
Rodríguez said he had just finished paying about $500 on his debt for
maintenance fees, and had no more money.
“I got a real estate agent and decided to get out of there and sell,
because the abuse was pretty clear, and those people had the backing of
the court,” he said.
He sold the apartment for about $32,000 in March 2012. But before he
could receive the money, Ortega sent him another bill for $14,000, for
lawyers' fees and repairs to the building. If he did not pay, she could
not remove the lien on the property.
Critics of the receivership system say that judges give receivers too
much power over the homeowners' associations and then do little to
monitor their performance. In fact, they add, some receivers work
hand-in-hand with companies and lawyers that focus only on their own
profits while the associations receive few if any benefits.
In Ortega's case, court documents show she used the services of at
least seven companies to fix, rent and manage the apartments — most of
them owned by the same people.
the receiver brought us more chaos and humiliation
“If I describe our experience with the receiver as a nightmare, I would
be falling short,” Amjad Farooq, president of the Tropical Point
homeowners' association, told el Nuevo Herald. “Instead of helping us,
the receiver brought us more chaos and humiliation. Many malicious and
illegal things were done.”
Ortega, who was named receiver of Tropical Point in January 2012,
declined to comment for this report on the advice of her attorney,
Ronald Strauss, because of pending court cases. The current
representative of APG Partners, Steven Kates, did not reply to a
request for an interview. Rogelio Cainzos, listed as the former APG
administrator, told el Nuevo Herald he had just left a hospital and did
not want to be interviewed.
Ortega was appointed as receiver for at least 12 other condominiums in
Miami-Dade. Some of them later asked the courts to cancel her
“The victims generally have to get a lawyer to take their cases to
court, and the fight can go on for years while these people are sucking
the money out of the association,” said José Pazos, owner of Pazos
Robaina Association Management, which manages condos. The company maintains a Web page on cases involving
In an order removing Ortega as receiver of the International Park I
condos at 11800 SW 18th St. in November 2014, Judge Victoria Sigler
noted the following issues, among others:
▪ Reports that the receiver was required to submit to the court every
four months almost never arrived on time, which meant the court could
not supervise Ortega's activities. “The condominium association, the
apartment owners and the residents did not have the benefit of a
transparent process,” Sigler wrote.
▪ Ortega charged excessive amounts for costs and fees, sometimes more
than double the amount allowed by the court. In one unit, she charged
$2,500 even though she was allowed to charge only $1,500. “In
conclusion, the court does not approve of doubling of payments,
subcontracting services and excessive charges, which are contrary to
the best interests of the receivership,” Sigler wrote.
▪ The receiver deprived at least one owner of his home in a fraudulent
manner, by posting a false judicial owner on its door and changing the
locks. “The appointment of a receiver does not deprive anyone of
ownership rights,” the judge said.
▪ Ortega had a conflict of interest when she hired companies to provide
services for the condo without revealing important links. “The court
has noted that providers to the receiver, Gables Professional
Management Co., Community Rental Partners, LLC, and APG Partners, are
all companies registered in the name of the property administrator,
Rogelio Cainzos, and have substantially profited” from Ortega's
receivership, Sigler wrote.
Ortega's attorney Strauss — who is also listed as an agent for the
majority of companies hired by Ortega and the ones that list Cainzos as
administrator — told el Nuevo Herald that Sigler issued her order
without considering any evidence or witnesses.
“There was no hearing for evidence,” said Strauss, who declined further
judges appoint receivers to help, not harm
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko told el Nuevo Herald
that judges appoint receivers to help, not harm, the condominiums. But
judges generally are not aware of irregularities committed by
receivers, she added, and it is the responsibility of owners to inform
The owners have the responsibility for letting
us know that the receiver is not doing his job.
“Obviously, someone who wants to be a receiver does not come to us and
tell us, 'I am going to steal, I am going to harm the owners.' It
doesn't work that way,” said Butchko, an administrative judge in the
Circuit Civil Division. “In some cases these people are not doing the
work they were appointed to do, but we judges have hundreds of cases
and we are not monitoring all the actions of receivers. The owners have
the responsibility for letting us know that the receiver is not doing
Some members of the industry believe, however, that the judges are not
sufficiently aware of cases of fraud involving condo receivers and that
their actions border on criminal.
“The court appoints these people, and it should be responsible for what
those people do with the powers that it grants them,” Pazos said. “A
receiver should be someone neutral, appointed randomly by a judge. But
in these cases, it was the owners' associations that proposed the
person they wanted appointed as receivers.”
Butchko said that if owners believe that a receiver is violating the
law, it is the residents or the owners who should contact police or
take their complaints to state prosecutors.
In Tropical Point
Several years after he lost his property, taxi driver Rodríguez still
does not understand exactly what happened.
“I never understood how those people got there and in just two months I
already owed them thousands of dollars,” said Rodríguez, who has driven
a taxi for 20 years and used part of his savings to buy his apartment.
“That was a nightmare and a headache. I tried to defend myself, but I
was told that I needed to get a lawyer, go to court, and all of that
In 2014, Rodríguez received a call from new owners of several Tropical
Point units offering to take his case to court. That same year, in
June, Judge José Rodríguez ordered Ortega and the companies that worked
with her to return $3,799 to the taxi driver because of overcharges.
Since then, the judge has ordered reimbursements for at least two other
we found all kinds of abuses
“We came here and started to review the accounts, and we found all
kinds of abuses, including the case of this taxi driver, who clearly
was charged for services that were never provided,” Armando Pérez-Roura
Jr. said. His family's enterprise, 1498 Across the Bay, bought several
units in the condominium to rent, negotiated a loan to carry out
repairs and had the city of Miami remove its lien on the property.
Judge Rodríguez removed Ortega as receiver of Tropical Point in 2013,
at the request of the homeowners' association and Ortega herself.
Shortly afterward, Ortega sent the association an invoice for more than
$48,000, saying the bill was for services provided by two legal firms
for work related to the condominium. Tropical Point is refusing to pay
The case is now before a circuit court, and has unleashed a torrent of
questions about Ortega's work at Tropical Point.
Attorneys for Tropical Point persuaded the judge to order Banco Popular
to hand over account records for companies linked to Ortega that worked
on the condo, alleging that Ortega was not providing the correct
documents related to her work for the complex.
Documents presented by the attorneys to the court showed that more than
$61,000 generated by the condo during Ortega's receivership was
deposited in an account of APG Partners, LLC. About $11,000 of that
money went back to the association. The attorneys claim, however, that
the total amount deposited in bank accounts used by Ortega and the
companies she hired was well over $115,000. They are asking Judge
Rodríguez to order the return of all that money, and to order Ortega to
pay all legal fees.
Testifying in the case on March 2, Cainzos told Judge Rodríguez that he
did not create some of the companies that list his name, and that in
some cases he was not even aware of the companies' existence.
“Would you say you were just a front man,” Cainzos was asked by Spencer
West, attorney for the current receiver of the Tropical Point
condominium, Phillip Mitchell.
“You could say that,” Cainzos answered, adding that an unauthorized
electronic signature was used to create the companies.
West asked the court in January 2015 to consolidate before one judge
all of the pending cases by owners against Ortega, but his petition was
Judge Butchko, who could not comment on specific cases, told el Nuevo
Herald that cases can only be consolidated when they present identical
West's petition in fact alleged that Ortega and the companies she
worked with had engaged in a pattern of abusive activities in a number
of the properties where they worked.
“Ortega's entire receiver team, APG, etc., should be barred from
participating in any other receivership in Miami-Dade until the court
can prevent similar cases,” West said in his petition.