Condo management won’t fix guard gate after string of robberies

Article Courtesy of Channel 7 News Miami
By Patrick Fraser  

Published February 17, 2018

She was robbed at gunpoint — then another neighbor was robbed, and another. And then Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser discovered dozens of crimes had been committed at the apartment complex, and residents say many could have been avoided if one thing had been done, which is why they called Patrick and Howard.

When Mercedes walked into Windmill Lakes condos in Pembroke Pines, the word “like” kept coming to mind.

Mercedes Marcano, robbed at gunpoint: “I like the area, I like the entrance, I love my apartment, but most of all, I like the rent. It’s not that high.”

Mercedes also liked the thought of something else as she drove in. There was a guard house and a gate.

Even though it was broken that day.

Mercedes Marcano: “But I thought they were going to be fixing it, but as time went by, I didn’t see anybody working on it.”

Mercedes was happy to move into her apartment. Then, two weeks later, she came home from work…

Mercedes Marcano: “The man came in the front seat and he put the gun at my head. Somebody else came through the back also. He also had a gun, and he got me out of the car and he put the gun in my head.”

The gunmen drove off in Mercedes’ car — taking her computer, cellphone and purse.

Mercedes Marcano: “It was very scary.”

Mercedes then found out that armed gunmen had robbed another woman in the same parking lot the night before.

Mercedes Marcano: “It’s very frightening.”

Having a gun shoved in your face is frightening. Infuriating Mercedes, she found out that gate that was supposed to provide security has been broken for years.

Mercedes Marcano: “My theory is that if the gate would have been working, it would have made it harder for them to come in.”

And crooks have come rolling in.

Pembroke Pines Police sent us this document that shows 36 crimes have been committed at the complex in the last two years.

Well, make that 37, because just last week armed gunmen ambushed and beat up another woman. Robbers so bold they did it as a resident videotaped them — infuriating the mayor.

Frank C. Ortis, Pembroke Pines mayor: “How dare you be cowards and beat up defenseless women. You are punks. You are ignorant. You are stupid.”

And remember the guard house that Mercedes thought would provide another layer of security? We discovered its become a storage area.

Mercedes Marcano: “Somebody would have asked for ID. It would have been a lot harder for someone to come in.”

No gate, no guard and no peace of mind.

Mercedes Marcano: “I have lost a lot of peace. My pressure has gone up, and I start crying for everything.”

Well, Howard, Mercedes has a new lease with her landlord and can’t afford to break it. Legally, what can she do?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “She needs to sue. This is a condo association, and they have a responsibility to their owners and their renters to provide a safe environment. They knew their gate was broken for years, and they knew about all the crimes we listed, yet they did nothing. In court, the victims of these crimes like Mercedes should win.”

We contacted the association’s management company to ask why they won’t just fix the gate. They referred us to their attorney, who didn’t return phone calls or emails.

Janelle Vega, The Verdecia Law Firm: “She has a good claim, and there are going to be damages here.”

Janelle Vega is now planning to sue the complex for Mercedes and other residents who have been the victims of crimes at Windmill Lakes.

Janelle Vega: “She’s been very nervous. She has lost sleep, she suffers from headaches now.”

And the lawsuit, the horrible incidents of guns in residents’ faces, might have been avoided if the complex had just bothered to fix the gate.

Mercedes Marcano: “It’s not 100 percent, but it would make me feel better, and it would eliminate a couple of individuals, a few individuals from coming in.”

Maybe now they will fix the guard gate.

A question — can you break your lease if you live in a place that has a lot of crime problems? Surprisingly, it would be tough to do because, for example in this case, it’s not the landlord’s fault. The gate remains broken.