SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP - - The management firm of a local condominium association is the subject of an FBI investigation for allegedly embezzling several million dollars from bank accounts of the 50 properties it managed.
Mariners Point Condominium Association, along with several of the other associations affected, have also filed a civil lawsuit against the Willoughby-based company, MultiVest Management Inc., and it's owners, James and Kathleen DeSalvo of Mentor, on claims of fraud, unjust enrichment, breech of contract and negligence.
The suit was filed by David Kaman of Kaman and Cusimano law offices in Cleveland.
"We filed the suit against MultiVest in an attempt to recover the missing funds," Kaman said. "We are also seeking a court-appointed receiver to take control of the DeSalvo's home and other property and equipment."
The missing funds are said to be in excess of $3.4 million. The FBI has not filed any charges as of yet, Kaman said.
On Feb. 16 at about 3 p.m., James DeSalvo contacted his employees and told them the company was closing it's doors due to financial irregularities. The following week, the 50 associations throughout northeast Ohio, from North Ridgeville to Ashtabula, received letters from DeSalvo stating the bank statements they had been receiving were inaccurate and overstated the amounts in their accounts. Copies of accurate bank statements were attached to the letters. DeSalvo also indicated he would be cooperating with the FBI throughout it's investigation, Kaman said.
"Some associations had several thousand dollars and ended up with almost nothing," he said. "The investigation is still going on to determine how much is missing from each association."
Kaman said the amounts missing from each association range from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars.
"I believe this is the single largest taking of association funds of anywhere in the country," he said. "It is also the largest in terms of the number of associations affected."
Kaman said condos consist of a lot of hard working owners who pay a monthly fee for utilities and services such as snow removal.
"Now these hard working owners are finding unpaid bills and now they have to dig themselves out from this mess," he said.
The Mariners Point Condominium Association Board of Directors, as well as the other associations affected, notified condo owners of the situation and are seeking new management. The owners have also been instructed not to send their March maintenance fee to MultiVest.
Bob Munson, Mariners Point board president, said Mariners Point will self-manage the property rather than hire a new firm.
"This just left a bad taste in our mouth," he said. "The board is hiring an employee to take care of the financial side and another to handle the management of the property."
Munson said he is unsure as to how much money is missing from Mariners Point's account.
"I have no idea how much is missing, but it's pretty much a given that something is missing," he said. "We're just kind of scrambling right now."
Mariners Point is made up of 98 units housed in five buildings. The complex consists of year-long residents as well as summer residents and weekend residents, Munson said.
The FBI has not disclosed what may have become of the $3.4 million, but is continuing it's involvement in the matter and expects to file charges soon, Kaman said.
Star Beacon Print Edition: 3/6/2007