NORTH BAY VILLAGE, Fla. - The Kennedy House condominium is located on Biscayne Bay in North Bay Village, but many of its residents said the way things are going it doesn't feel like it's in America at all.
"It's like we're in a banana republic," said resident Lynn Ragusa.
Residents said there has been unchecked crime at the condo that starts at the top with condo manager Rachel Badilla, who was charged in August with stealing $4,500 from the condo association after forging the names of board members on a check.
Despite the fact that she faces criminal prosecution on the allegations she stole from the Kennedy House, she has been allowed to keep her position running the association and overseeing its $1.2 million budget. Residents said they learned the association even posted the $5,000 bond to bail her out of jail.
Former board treasurer Sigrid Nilssen, a witness in the case, said she's disgusted that the association's current leadership is keeping Badilla in charge of the Kennedy House.
"A woman who has been charged with two felonies, how can you explain that?" asked Nilssen.
Nilssen said she was forced off the board after she began asking questions about financial irregularities. She notes that the Kennedy House also has Robert Dugger on the payroll as a consultant.
Dugger is a former North Bay Village commissioner who was removed from office by former Gov. Jeb Bush after he was charged criminally in a corruption case and was ultimately convicted of two misdemeanor charges.
Dugger has a long history of complaints as a manager at several condos and has been fined and reprimanded in the past but has managed to retain his state license.
"It's a family affair," said resident Sergio Evora.
"He must have a good friend at the [state Department of Business and Professional Regulation]," said Nilssen.
They learned the association's listed accountant, Gary Alexander, didn't have an active license and reported that to the state. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation interviewed Alexander, who said he wasn't doing any accounting work for the Kennedy House and that he was the victim of "a clear case of identity theft."
When state investigators questioned Badilla, she mentioned that the person actually serving as the accountant was a man named Craig DeGregory, who had said he worked with Alexander.
State investigators then learned that DeGregory also was unlicensed and had been convicted in 2003 of stealing $400,000 from Miami condo Surfside Condominium.
DeGregory told Local 10 News that he was indeed working with Alexander, but admitted he didn't have a license. That investigation has been forwarded to the state attorney's office and DeGregory said he has been cooperating with the state.
Finally there are the burglaries. Residents have also complained of a string of burglaries where units have been stripped of appliances with no signs of forced entry. Evora said his unit was hit prior to him moving in 2013, with expensive new stainless steel appliances mysteriously replaced with older damaged appliances. Police investigated and when they questioned Badilla she said it had been a "mistake."
"Badilla stated the condo had been unoccupied for four years and the appliances were moved by mistake to another unit," North Bay Village police Officer Walter Sajdak wrote in his report. "Badilla stated the management company will repair any damage to the unit caused by the mistake."
"That was a flat-out burglary -- it had all the elements," Brito told the commission. "We have thieves not only working at the Kennedy House but running the Kennedy House."
North Bay Village manager Frank Rollason told Local 10 that the poor way in which the Kennedy House cases were handled was one factor among others in his decision to fire Police Chief Robert Daniels last week. He also said that he has put a priority on the Kennedy House burglary investigation, even authorizing overtime for investigators to get it done.
When Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman caught up with Badilla, she refused to comment on her own criminal case and the burglaries, saying that her attorney had instructed her not to speak about it. She also called police on Norman who was a guest of numerous residents at the condo at the time.
Norman also spoke with current board treasurer Judith Landis, who voiced support for Badilla.
"Don't you have concerns about what's going on here?" asked Norman.
"Leave me alone," said Landis.
"The residents here think you're looking the other way," said Norman.
Landis said there were only a handful of residents complaining and that 230 of them "like what we are doing."
"That like the fact that you have a manager who is accused of stealing money from the association?" Norman asked.
"Accused only," said Landis before slamming her car door shut and driving away.
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