Law firm for Naples property management firm denies charges, say association clients were aware
Lawyers for a Naples company accused of draining funds from 35 Collier and Lee county condo and homeowner associations has issued a denial of charges against their client.
The denial came via a response Tuesday in an "Answer and Affirmative Defense to Amended Complaint by American Property Management Services LLC" filed in Collier County Court.
And a lawyer for the associations said the owner of APMS, Orlando Miserandino Ortiz, also has yet to respond to requests to release possible remaining funds in a bank account that the associations say only he has access to.
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The affected condo and homeowner associations will likely face a battle that could last for months and include criminal probes over missing funds totaling hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
A complaint outlining the charges against APMS and Ortiz was filed in Collier County court by the associations Jan. 5 and amended Feb. 7.
The complaint claims APMS and/or Ortiz placed funds in an account at Wells Fargo Bank only he could access, preventing the associations from making an accounting of their funds or accessing their funds, unlawfully took sole control of the Wells Fargo accounts, wrongfully or unlawfully transferred association funds for their own use.
There is also a separate $100,000 civil lawsuit, filed in Collier County court Jan. 3 by The Commodore Club in Naples, that claims Ortiz and his wife, Lina Munoz Posada, facilitated fraud, breach of contract and embezzlement with club funds.
APMS was first sued in April 2021 for failing to turn over client bank accounts. Four days later, Ortiz created a company called Gama Jets LLC.
By May 7, Gama Jets was the new owner of a 1999 Hawker 800XP business jet — and wasted no time in using it. The plane began making frequent international trips, primarily between Naples Airport, Opa-Locka Executive Airport in Miami and destinations in Colombia, including other long-distance jaunts.
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Nobody at the associations has claimed contact with Ortiz since the end of December or early January and the current whereabouts of Ortiz and Posada are unclear. Laura Rigsby, president of Royal Bay Villas Condo Association in south Naples, said she last saw Ortiz in October and last has email contact with him Jan. 5.
The last available data for the plane shows it making a series of flights on Jan. 31: from Miami toward the Bahamas, to Tallahassee, and then back to Miami.
Attorney Jason Mikes, representing some of the condo and homeowner associations, filed a motion asking to modify the temporary restraining order/ temporary injunction Thursday afternoon in an attempt to release the remaining funds in the Wells Fargo accounts.
The motion seeks to revoke APMS' authority over and access to the Wells Fargo accounts and turn them over the the associations they represent since the funds beklong to the residents of the associations and were only entrusted to APMS for safekeeping and to pay operational expenses.
Any funds remaining in those Wells Fargo accounts could be used by the condo and homeowner associations to pay bills and the motion would allow him access to the records of the Wells Fargo accounts that will prove the amount of money missing, Mikes said.
He added that multiple requests about the funds made by him to Ortiz, APMS, and lawyers for Ortiz and APMS have received a response.
"The associations have asked ... Ortiz to release the funds and records, but he fails to respond," Mikes said. "Our firm has asked his criminal defense attorney and now the attorney at (Tampa-based) Shutts & Bowen to release the funds and records, but they fail to respond. Even (Wednesday), Wells Fargo’s lawyer asked APMS’ Shutts & Bowen attorney if he had any objection to them releasing the funds and records to the associations. He has yet to respond."
Shutts & Bowen, the Tampa law firm representing APMS, filed a motion on Feb. 1 for extension to respond with the Collier County Common Pleas Court, where the case is now before Judge Lauren Brodie. The motion was granted on Feb. 3 giving the firm until Tuesday to respond, which they did.
The response was a blanket denial of all general allegations in the amended complaint and a listing of nine "affirmative defenses."
An affirmative defense is a fact or series of facts other than the allegations in a court action or suit. If proven, the defenses could affect the legal consequences of the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct.
In a note to members of the association on Wednesday, Mikes said: "APMS denies that its principal place of business is Collier County, Florida, denies that it is agent for the associations, denies that it opened bank accounts for the associations at Wells Fargo Bank and is the sole authorized user of such accounts, and denies that it refused to return funds in the accounts or grant access to the bank records.
"As an affirmative defense, APMS asserts that all of its actions were known to the associations, approved by the associations, and thus, you all waived your rights and are estopped from pursuing actions against APMS."
Shutts & Bowen did not respond to requests for comment.
Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Naples Daily News reporter Dan Glaun contributed to this report.