Shelton Condo Owners Arrested While Investigating Property Manager They Believe Was Double Billing

Copyright 2012

Three Shelton condo owners who are investigating the property manager of their complex because they believe he billed them improperly, were arrested today after the manager accused them of stealing documents, according to police.

Joseph Miller, 79, was the first one arrested today when he turned himself in to Trumbull police after receiving a letter informing him that a warrant had been issued accusing him and two fellow condo owners of sixth degree larceny, said deputy Trumbull police chief Michael Harry, who said he wasn’t intimately aware of the case.

Kathy Benedetto, 56, and Joan Pagliuco, 66, of the same complex – Sunwood Condominiums – turned themselves in today and were also booked.

The charges were made by Gary Knauf, owner of County Management in Trumbull, and an employee – who only identified herself to CtCondoNews as Darleen. According to Benedetto, the two (Knauf and Darleen) told police that the three walked out of the County Management office without paying the $205 fee for copies of financial documents relating to their investigation of Knauf. Police confirmed the gist of the complaint.

“I guess they asked for copies of documents,” Harry said. “They stayed in the office for three hours and left. . The took everything without paying $205 for it.”

Harry said all three will be released on written promises to appear in court.

The three deny stealing the documents. Pagliuco, after her arrest, said no one asked for any money. They had brought a check with them. When they did not see Knauf and Darleen they assumed that the two left the building, and they would be sent an invoice.

“I just can’t believe he stooped to this level to hide something,” Pagliuco said. “The documents weren’t his. . They belong to us and the association.”

Benedetto said they later found out the copying charge was less than $16. However, the research charge to find the documents was probably $190.

The case raises many questions including whether the documents really belong to Knauf or to the association, which of course the three belong to. State law indicates that financial documents are owned by the association and have control of them unless they have formally turned them over to the property manager.

Another question is why it took months for the three to get the financial documents. The condo owners requested help from the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition in getting the financial documents after their email requests to the president were ignored. As a member of the executive committee of the CCOC  I suggested to them that they attend the next meeting of the condo board, bring copies of their request specifying which documents they wanted, and to give them to all board members and to Knauf. Their request was eventually honored, but they were told to get the documents in the Trumbull property manager’s office. They were told they would have to pay for them.

“This is the most outrageous allegation possible,” said Brian Harte, President and Chairman of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition.  “This well educated group came to seek guidance from the CCOC in response to documented circumvention by the management company of legal orders and well researched probability of mismanagement of funds.”

“This team was trying to find the truth.  They requested documents that were no different than a private homeowner being able to look at their own checkbook.  The CCOC is concerned with the police department’s and prosecutor’s office judgement in this case in issuing the arrest warrants.  There are specific condo laws that give these rights to owners and the association and management company should be well aware of that.”

“There is no doubt that this is just the beginning of a much larger story,” Harte said.

The three – along with at least one other condo owner – have spent months investigating whether County Management double billed the complex and its role in building projects where required building permits were not sought prior to the work. They are also investigating OSHA violations by the workers hired by the manager.

The three were members of the condo association ByLaws Committee, but were thrown off the committee after the incident.

“Due to a reported incident, in which you were reported to be involved, which occurred at the Office of County Management on or about Friday, June 29, 2012 and which is currently under investigation by the Trumbull Pd., this is formal notification that you are suspended from the ByLaws Committee pending the disposition of the Trumbull Pd. investigation,” condo president Phil Napolitano wrote them in an email.

A roofer died at the complex this year after he fell 39 feet while installing a skylight.

“Francisco Amaral, 46, of Bridgeport, was taken to Bridgeport Hospital after the Feb. 14 accident. He later died from blunt head trauma,” according to the Connecticut Post.

“An inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Bridgeport office also was at the complex this week after the agency received a complaint that roofers weren’t wearing fall protection. Local police, following Amaral’s death, said it didn’t appear he was wearing a safety harness,” the post wrote on June 23.

“We went there after receiving a call that there might be safety hazards, that workers weren’t wearing fall protection,” said John Donnelly, the onsite inspector for OSHA.

Joe Miller had served on the Board of Directors for over a year and ended his tenure in March of 2012.  He said asked one simple question of the rest of the Board and of Knauf at each monthly meeting, “Can someone provide a copy of the financials that a layman like me can understand?”

Miller said he neither got a decent reply nor anything that was easy to follow.  He said that he resigned thinking that he cold do “greater good” from the outside than he could from the inside.

“Everything about Sunwood is controlled by Gary (the Propery Manager) and not the board who are supposed to be directing Knauf.” Miller said.

As Miller was turning himself in for the arrest warrant, Miller said that he asked of the booking Officer, “So this is how a 79 year old man that served his country gets treated?”  Miller is a war-time veteran of the Korean War.

And as for Benedetto, she said after her arrest: “This is not going to stop us from continuing our investigation.”

Watch for more demands for documentation.


12 Responses to Shelton Condo Owners Arrested While Investigating Property Manager They Believe Was Double Billing

  1. Bernadette Longo says:

    I truly admire Kathy, Joan and Joe for continuing to pursue the injustices done to the Sunwood Condo owners by Gary Knauf and County Management even in the wake of this hideous accusation. As they say, “The truth will prevail and justice will be served.”

  2. Sylvia Zebrowski says:

    Unfortunately the CT laws give the association/management the right to charge for copies of document. Copies are not the documents and if there was a charge for copying the documents that amount could have been charged to the owners monthly statement and would have prevented this from happening.

    Why is the board not investigating these allegations?

    It seems it is an attempt by the management company to stop an investigation and the board of the association is not investigating.

    This goes on all the time with association boards not wanting the owners to have access and the management company making it impossible for owners to easily access the papers. I believe the documents should be stored online for all members to see – especially after they are paid.

  3. Danielle From Bridgeport CT says:

    I agree with Sylvia the sad truth of it all the Bylaws and the state make it clear and tricky on what is ok for the owners to retain and what isn’t. I do applaud Kathy,Joan and Joe for trying, sad part is of course the board probably does not want to investigate and I am just speculating, probably becuase I am sure that there is either some form of kick back given to a few or it is sheer laziness on their part to take their responsibility seriously on all counts not just when they speak to fellow owners. Unfortunately from I have been reading from a lot of the comments and what I experience within my own Association people get so drunk with the power and ignorance of others and see how easy they can minipulate the bylaws becuase of the lack of concerns by the State to enforce any consequences. But if there was money involved that the state was nto recieving like if the Taxes have not been done and the state or government have not gotten their share. (I learned this when our Decks were not up to par legally 2 years ago and our Association got fined and threatened by the city of Bridgeport, yes bitter/ sweet, but I had to prove to our scared Association that the Treasurer is not only nickle and diming us but is talking out her butt for lack of better words)Sometimes you have to question within your city to bring attention as well.

  4. Robert Curry says:

    This is only ONE of many reasons that I am glad NOT to be living anywhere that is controlled by one of these NAZI-LIKE “Associations!” WHY someone will spend their hard-earned money on a residence where someone else commands them as to what they can do to it, and decides when and how repairs/alterations are done, is besides me.-What’s next? CARS?-Buy a new car, and the “car owners association” will command you as to service of the car, where you must buy fuel, how often you must clean the vehicle, where you can drive it, and how and where it must be repaired?-I do NOT consider this as “OWNERSHIP!”–Such practices/restrictions are more consistant with RENTING or LEASING, not OWNING! Condos and apartments are too alike in regard to restrictios to suit me, with the biggest difference being the fact that you get only RECEIPTS for renting an apartment, but you get a DEED when “Buying” a condo, although in NEITHER case do you normally get all the rights and priveledges of TRUE OWNERSHIP of the property! It is always typical that when OTHERS are involved as “middle men” in spending your money, that prices increase, and opportunities for corruption increase! Such densely packed housing creates as many problems (or more) than it solves, as people seem less tolerant of their neighbors when so closely packed! Give me the suburban/rural life, in a detached, single family home, with some real ACERAGE surrounding it anyday!

  5. L Resident says:

    Sounds like Lakeridge in Torrington

  6. H. Schmidt says:

    As past owners in Sunwood we know only to well the abuses of a past president and his henchman . It cost us dearly when we sold , i only hope he has been investigated and punished for his abuses .

  7. HappyOwnerAndBoardMember says:

    Living in a condo is not all that different than living in a house, with town, state, and Federal government to deal with. It takes vigilance, participation in elections, and legal action. Public officials withhold documents and require FOI actions. Federal agencies attack whistleblowers etc.
    These three are doing a service, investigating their condo board and management company. Hopefully the owners actions will be, in the end, vindicated. Sounds like there was hardly an investigation before the arrests, so the police may have something to answer for as well.
    One of the good things about CT condo law is that a Board can be removed by an owner vote, initiated by a petition by 20% of the owners. We don’t have a similar right to remove town government. I wonder why that is not attempted in cases like this. Has anyone experience trying?

  8. Ingrid Oxenberg Tolland says:

    Happy Owner and Board Member – you make me SICK! Of course you are happy – you along w/ so many other Board members of Condominiums are STEALING from the other non-board member homeowners. This is how it works and everyone who has ever owned a Condo in the state of CT knows what a total scam Condo Boards are today and have been for the past 20 years in this state. You take stuff that is not yours and you pay nothing for stuff that other homeowners are charged for. What also happens is that you have the landscapers (as part of their contract) give your homes the best plantings and shrubbery that exists for the entire property landscape – but you keep it for yourselves in front of your own homes. EVERYONE who has been living in these Associations knows exactly how you operate. Happy Board member?? Of Course you are my dear – but more than that, you are a pathetic lying cheater and a thief like the rest of Board members in Condo Associations. Working in CAHOOTS with the Property Management – kick backs galore take place in these Condo Assoc, with Board Members paying off Property Managers to keep quiet.

    Who wants to know why the Board members did not do anything here?? I’ll tell you why! Because they are the ones who these individuals have the real beef with and who are witholding information and lying and cheating and stealing here. The Board is the corrupt one, but the Property Managers and the Lawyer for the Association go along with it. It’s all a scam! These homeowners were WRONGLY arrested – they could have been billed for this and NOT arrested. This was done as a RED HERRING so that they become the “theives” as opposed to the TRUE theives (the Board Members and Property Managers) and looking at the REAL THEFT that is going on here. The one that the Board is doing right underneath the very eyes of all their homeowners they are supposedly serving. I guarantee that these individuals are onto something VERY BIG here and it’s about time the truth be told. I would encourage them to NEVER give up the good fight. The fight for the truth and for justice to the perpetrators. Never give up, as the truth ALWAYS prevails!!!! Investigate the Condo Association Law firm too. He is most likely the same Lawyer who does all the Condos in Fairfield County and he is a lying piece of trash!!

    Richard Curry – you hit the nail on the head. I commend you for articulating what so many of us already know – Condo Associations and their Boards are a total JOKE. The prerfequesite for joining a Board is not only corruption but you must be carrying a defective chromosome on your DNA. These are people who NEVER held any position of authority in their lives so they get themselves on Condo Boards and they never ever go away!!! Removing a Corrupt Board is like trying to remove President Assad and the Syrian Gov’t. Unless you have an all out war, it’s near impossible as the voting is always rigged “by proxy votes”. This is not Democracy in America; Condo Boards are as close to third world corruption as you can get in America. Self-governing HOA Boards need to be thrown out the window. I’d rather have big Gov’t come in and take over. At least their would be MORE transparency!!! There is ZERO transparency in these HOA’s which is WHY these people were seeking the truth on their own. Afterall, it’s THEIR MONEY going into the common charges. I would call for an outside investigation pronto!!! Go to the office of the Attorney General and have AG Jepsen’s office get involved ASAP!!! My money is on the Homeowners seeking the truth here. No doubt about it. Getting arrested for this is INSANITY!!! Bill them for it and they know they can do that!!!! The truth will prevail on these corrupt liars and cowards!!!

  9. Allison says:

    It certainly appears to me that the property manager has something to hide. It’s not uncommon. I commend the owners who are investigating, and they have every right to do so. The property manager works for the owners, not the other way around. The fact that he had them arrested tells me that there is a lot more to be uncovered. The board is either naieve or afraid to pursue this. A forensic audit should be made, and if there is any sign of foul play, then an arrest of the property manager and his assistant is warranted. I look forward to hearing more about this story.

  10. Marahlia says:

    OMG! I am going to similar dilemma with the property manager and the board of my condo in Bridgeport. Connecticut becomes Corrupticut. The management is arrogant, incompetent. Those property managers don’t think they work for the owners; they conspire with the board to misuse our funds. Never any money in the reserve account, don’t want to show financial statment or even the bylaws. Connecticut Condo Laws should be revisited and revised.

  11. Sue Them says:

    I hope the Management Co. Is well insured, because when these charges are thrown out the arrestees should file a suit against Knauf and his employee Darleen & the County Management!
    I find this horrendous and illegal.

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