By George Gombossy
The arraignment for three Shelton condo owners accused of stealing financial documents from the property manager of their complex whom they were investigating for incompetence and double billing was delayed Thursday until later in the month.
Joseph Miller, 79, a former board member, Kathy Benedetto, 56, a hospital accountant, and Joan Pagliuco, 66, a travel agent, - all of Sunwood Condominiums, had their cases delayed until Aug. 23, whether the sixth degree larceny charges will either be dismissed or they will be required to enter a plea. They received a copy of the arrest warrant today, which is printed below in full.
All three deny intended to steal any documents and vow to plead not guilty on the 23rd if the charges are not completely dismissed. They don't intend to accept any offer short of a dismissal.
The arrests is a culmination of a dispute that went into high gear when a worker for a construction company Knauf hired fell off a 39-foot roof last winter and was killed. No building permit was obtained for the skylight replacement project and OSHA required safety harnesses were not worn by the workers. OSHA shut the job down at least two times.
Since then the dissident condo owners have been demanding hundreds of pages of documents from the board of directors and from Knauf, including financial records to see if there were double billings, questions that Knauf refused to answer when contacted by CtCondoNews.
Out of frustration, the dissident owners contacted CtCondoNew and the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition seeking advice.
I - as an executive committee member of the CCOC and editor and publisher of the web site, suggested that they attend the next board meeting and hand out copies of their demands to Knauf and all the board members.
As the result, they were told the documents would be made available to them at Knauf's office. Then come two versions of what happened when the three went to get the documents.
Knauf accused them of stealing the documents and claimed they had always intended to steal them.
"That is what we believe," said Knauf, owner of County Management "they intended to steal from me."
Knauf and one of his assistants, filed larceny claims against Miller, Benedetto, 56,and Pagliuco.
Knauf said the three came to his office on June 29 after they had demanded access to hundreds of pages of financial documents.
He said "we treated them cordially...we are a full believer in transparency."
Knauf said his staff made copies of the documents they wanted, and when the secretary who provided them the copies went into Knauf's office, the three left taking not only 400 pages of copies but 50 pages of original documents.
He said the three knew that they had to pay $60 an hour for researching the requested documents, plus 5 cents a copy. While a final tally of the costs were not presented, Knauf said the three knew they had to pay to take the papers.
Asked why he simply did not send them an invoice instead of calling the police, Knauf indicated it was time for payback.
"They have been persecuting us for three years, they had the opportunity to do the right thing," Knauf said. "They didn't offer to give us a check."
Asked how he knew the three took original documents also, Knauf said they had to because the documents were missing after the three left. He conceded that no one saw the three take the documents, which he claimed had been left on a counter.
The three arrested deny stealing the documents and said they did not take the originals. They said they assumed since everyone left the office they would be sent a bill for the documents. They had brought a check with them to pay, but said they were not told what the amount they were owed.
"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.
"This is the most outrageous allegation possible," said Brian Harte, President and Chairman of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition referring to the arrests. "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.
The following is a copy of the arrest warrant the three received today:
That the undersigned, Officer Anthony Lopes is a member of the Trumbull Police Department and has been since October 20, 2006. The affiant is currently assigned to the Patrol Division,where his duties include larceny complaints.
On June 29, 2012 at approximately 4:00 p.m. I, Officer Anthony Lopes was detailed to County Management Services at 6527 Main St for a larceny complaint. Upon my arrival I met the complainant, Gary Knauf who explain that earlier in the afternoon three persons, identified as Joan Pagliuco, Joseph Miller, and Kathleen Benedetto hac left his officewithout paying for 317 copies of prepared documents, as well as previously agreed upon labor charges. The total loss for three hours of labor, plus the document fees totaled $205.85.
Knouf provided a sworn written statement explaining that on June 21, 2012 Benedetto had contacted his office in writing to schedule an appointment to review Sunwood Condominium Association documents in his office The fees and appointment time were established in the e-mail. On 6-29-12 at approximately 1:00 p.m. Benedetto, Miller, and Pagliuco arrived and were provided with the documents they requested totaling 317 pages. Benedetto Miller, and Pagliuco all remained in the office for over three hours reviewing the documents. At approximately 4:01 p.m. all three left the office and did not notify any of the office staff. Knauf alleged that the three also took three original copies of invoices, as well as one original bank statement, however neither he nor any office employees witnessed the theft of these documents. Knauf explained that his total loss was $205.85. This amount reflected tl
Finding The foregoing Application for an arrest warrant, and affidavit(s) attached to said Application, having been submitted to and considered by the undersigned, the undersigned finds from said affidavit(s) that there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the accused committed it and, therefore, that probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the above-named accused.
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