By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Super Value’s president and The Bahamas’ marinas chief yesterday vehemently denied claims they “colluded” with a property manager to help deprive a condo owners group of thousands of dollars.
Rupert Roberts and Peter Maury, the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) president, told Tribune Business there was “no truth at all” to allegations by 11 Bimini Sands homeowners associations that they had enabled Miami-based KW Property Management to access its Florida-based bank account for the purpose of making “unauthorised transfers”.
The claims were made in a lawsuit filed this week in the Miami-Dade County Judicial Circuit Court, which is seeking $729,593 in “treble damages” from KW over its former role as property manager at the Bimini-based development that Mr Roberts sold last year.
Neither the Super Value chief nor Mr Maury is named as a defendant in the action, but the homeowners associations - representing condo owners who had purchased their properties during the first 11 phases of Bimini Sands’ development - are alleging that some of the monies taken by KW were wrongly applied to cover fees owed by Mr Roberts on 63 units that had yet to be sold.
The condo owners’ claim, which has been obtained by Tribune Business, alleges that KW - without their knowledge or permission - removed the directors of the associations’ non-profit entity that oversaw the collection of their maintenance fees, association dues and other payments.
Their replacements, according to the lawsuit, were Mr Roberts and Mr Maury. Attached to the complaint was a copy of an April 5, 2019, filing to the Florida Division of Corporations showing the duo as directors of Bimini Sands Homeowners Association Phase One through Fifteen, which is the non-profit.
They had seemingly replaced Rick DeSantis, Adrien Capote, Tammy Cook and Todd Barna, with Mr Roberts and Mr Maury both sharing KW Property Management’s address. The address on the document matches the one on KW’s website, with the property manager also taking over as the non-profit’s registered agent.
The condo owners are alleging that replacing the long-standing directors with Mr Roberts and Mr Maury was done to facilitate KW’s access to the non-profit’s account at BB&T Bank in Florida, from which it purportedly made a series of “unauthorised transactions” totalling a six-figure sum.
These transfers, the Bimini Sands condo owners claim, were partially used to pay management fees and expenses incurred by Mr Roberts, as developer, on the 63 units he had yet to sell even though he made no financial contribution to the non-profit.
“Thus KW and the developer colluded to take the funds contributed by each of the Bimini Sands condominium unit owners of phases one through 11 to the Homeowners Association bank account by applying funds paid by individual unit owners to cover maintenance fees and expenses for developer-owned units,” the lawsuit alleges.
Mr Roberts yesterday dismissed the lawsuit as mischief-making by several condo owners as he denied the claims against him. “I don’t have to steal those millionaires’ money,” he joked to Tribune Business. “I’ve got enough money of my own. Some of those people have nothing else to do but make trouble or create trouble. Americans love to sue.
“I would have thought anything done in The Bahamas has to be the Bahamian courts. You don’t take Bahamian matters to US courts. We were fortunate to get them [KW] in the first instance. They are very qualified property managers. I can assure you KW have never done anything in their life.”
Acknowledging that he was aware of being appointed as a foundation director, Mr Roberts referred this newspaper to Mr Maury, who he named last year as his representative to manage Bimini Sands and ready it for sale. The ABM president, speaking to this newspaper, placed a completely different interpretation on events than the homeowners.
Mr Maury explained that he and Mr Roberts reluctantly agreed to be named as the non-profit’s directors because they were the only two Bahamian owners at Bimini Sands. This was necessary, he argued, because the maintenance and other fees were “not touching” The Bahamas because the foreign condo owners were unable to obtain Central Bank approval to open a Bahamian bank account.
“Not one of them was cleared on the bank account because they could not get Central Bank approval,” he explained, “so they had to put Mr Roberts and I on it. It’s that simple. I said I didn’t want to be on it and neither did Mr Roberts, but to set up the company they needed a Bahamian on it. Who were the Bahamians? Mr Roberts and myself.
“How does a homeowners association company operate out of the US with no Bahamian Business Licence and bank account and nothing else? The collection of fees is outside The Bahamas. It’s supposed to be run through The Bahamas but it’s not.”
Once the fees were paid into then BB&T bank account, Mr Maury said KW then transferred them to its account at Bank of The Bahamas for use in Bimini Sands’ upkeep as intended. Pointing out that KW was initially “voted in” to its management role by all 15 homeowners’ associations, who also signed the contract, Mr Maury dismissed the “collusion” claims contained in the lawsuit.
“That’s not true. That’s not true at all,” he retorted. “That’s not how it happened. I worked for Mr Roberts, and I guarantee he didn’t collude or take money from anyone. He’s probably one of the richest Bahamians in this country. There’s a new buyer in there and I don’t want to ruin their chances by saying more.”
That buyer is the Asplundh family, who originate from Philadelphia, and trace the source of their wealth to their 91-year-old business, Asplundh Tree Expert, which cuts trees and vegetation for electrical utility companies. Now under its third generation of family ownership, the company is described as a $3.1bn revenue business that employs a 35,000-strong workforce across multiple US states.
The Bimini Sands condo owners, in their lawsuit, admitted that they signed a property management agreement with KW’s Bahamian affiliate, Honey Cole Ltd, which gave “some level of access to Bimini Sands Homeowners Association records and the bank account”.
This agreement was allegedly terminated last year after the condo owners found that the non-profit directors and bank account signatories had been changed, and they were no longer receiving regular financial statements.
The condo owners alleged they hired Alan Blass, a US accountant and fraud examiner, who identified that $422,042 in “unexplained transfers” had occurred between the non-profit’s Florida bank account to KW’s Bank of The Bahamas account via five transactions between September 18, 2018, and May 20, 2019.
He also allegedly found that another $301,537 in “unexplained transfers” had taken place between the non-profit’s account and KW’s Florida operating account via 13 transactions between April 2018 and October 2019. A further $7,870 was taken out via the issuance of “unexplained cheques”, while a further $19,316 in capital reserve funds was also said to have “disappeared”.
Tribune Business efforts to obtain comment from KW Property Management proved unsuccessful yesterday. This newspaper was transferred to the voice maikl