I-Team: HOA Insider Breaks Silence

A former property manager is now coming forward saying she saw problems with the person at the center of the HOA investigations, Leon Benzer. New video and phone calls show some violent hired muscle willing to cross the line.

Allegations are flying back and forth in this case. Now there's proof it could get a lot worse.

From rigged elections and cushy contracts, to junkets to Cabo San Lucas and six tough guys acting as enforcers who would rough up anyone that would get in the way. The tale is the videotape, and it's one tale Diane Wild wishes she could forget.

"You recognize bad when you hear bad," she said.

For Wild, 35 years as a property manager means you know right from wrong, and she says a grainy black and white video proves it, "We have it on our security video camera."

Wild has been wrapped up in the HOA corruption probe since 2005, when she managed the Vistana and Pebble Creek Village properties.

She can list all the problems with the HOA leadership, "The election process, that they wanted to have full control of every operation that went on. They wanted to have their guys here, their guys there. I didn't agree with that."

Wild says developer Leon Benzer would get his friends to run for HOA board elections and then trump up defect lawsuits -- pocketing the extra money for his firm, Silver Lining Construction.

"When you see a job that costs $7,000 all of a sudden escalate to $20,000, you notice some nefarious activities going on," she said.

But they would rig the vote to get control, "They had all their players in place."

This past May, Wild protested one of the elections. After looking at the votes, something didn't add up -- all the votes seemed skewed for Frank Sutton, a retired Metro cop working with Benzer's other friends on the board.

"To have almost overwhelmingly a response and have them all be for Frank Sutton was just way too coincidental," she said.

That's where that video comes into play. After seeing the problems in May, homeowners at Pebble Creek wanted a recall election. Wild put it on the agenda. Then she got a call from the HOA board.

"Don't go to the meeting, do not send a representative to the meeting and you're fired," she said.

And then she got another call and voicemail, this time something far worse -- dangerous threats with language too graphic to air. While the recall went through, the very next day a dangerous surprise came to her door, all caught on tape.

"They immediately sent in six large Samoan gentleman, we're using that word loosely, to do us some bodily harm. They demanded the ballots, bandied about some threats," she said.

The video shows two of the muscular men demanding paperwork and then leaving.

For more than two years, Wild complained about these kinds of tactics. Because of it, she's faced smears and allegations.

Sources say Wild was involved in her own version of the same scheme, referring defect litigation to Draeger Construction, her vendor choice and a competitor of Benzer and Silver Lining. Sources say she took a free trip to Cabo san Lucas, all on the tab of Draeger.

Wild says that isn't so, "Five of us girls, one night having a cocktail decide it would just be a hoot to sneak off to Cabo and chase cabana boys and drink margaritas. That's the honest, bottom line truth."

In the end, she says reps from Draeger met in Cabo through mutual friends. She bought her own tickets.

The only gift given to Wild was a monogrammed towel still wrapped in cellophane.

After breaking her silence, Diane Wild won't let the questionable elections, innuendo and the strong arm tactics get in her way, "I decided that it was my responsibility to be the Norma Rae of the industry and step up to the plate say, ‘Wait a minute, you cannot do that.'"

The FBI conducted a search on Wild's records, looking for proof of wrongdoing. Her legal team cites law enforcement sources who say Wild is not a target, she is in fact a victim. But in the murky world of real estate with shifting alliances, it seems more keeps coming to light.

Email your comments to Investigative Reporter Jonathan Humbert


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