KISSIMMEE – A vacation home property management firm expects charges that were filed against the owner to be withdrawn, and the business to be fully vindicated.
“We expect all the charges to be dropped,” said Jeff Chase, spokesman for Magical Memories, a vacation home property management firm on Poinciana Boulevard off U.S. 192.
Last month, Osceola County detectives arrested Jeanne Kline, the owner of Magical Memories, and charged her with grand theft.
Chase said the arrest was a mistake, and Kline and her company had proven it to law enforcement.
“The press didn’t take out a press release saying ‘We were wrong,’ they just printed what was sensational,” Chase said.
The arrest was brought up this morning during the monthly meeting of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group representing managers of the growing number of vacation homes in this region. The meeting was held at the Falcon’s Fire Golf Resort in Kissimmee.
It was the first meeting since Kline’s arrest by Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies in late July. The arrest has generated a huge amount of buzz within the vacation home industry, which markets fully furnished homes with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen and private pool to vacationing families. The CFVRMA has an ethics board that could investigate the arrest, although it’s not clear if the board would do so if the charges against Kline are dropped. Members sign an ethics contract when they join the association, and both Kline and Chase are members. Chase also serves on CFVRMA’s board of directors.
Last month, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Magical Memories after a woman reported she had visited one of the vacation homes managed by Kline’s firm. According to the police report, the woman told deputies she noticed the furniture and décor didn’t belong to the owner, who was foreclosing on the property.
Detectives later interviewed one of Kline’s employees, who told them Kline had removed the owner’s furniture and décor and replaced it with less expensive items. Kline was arrested and charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and theft by a motel employee, and booked into the Osceola County Jail.
Chase said the charges were overblown, and he used the meeting at Falcon’s Fire to announce that the sheriff’s office had reached the same conclusion.
“The furniture and contents of the condo were donated to a charity in Tampa,” Chase said. “That’s been confirmed.”
The real dispute, he said, wasn’t over old furniture, but a set of linen and other small items that the owner wanted to sell to Kline for $3,500, Chase said.
“There was a question over who owned the towels,” he said. “The owner wanted us to buy the contents of the property, or tried to sell it to us. We said no, it was old furniture, and we offered her $200 for it. The owner wasn’t happy with that.”
Chase also said he expects the sheriff’s office to soon drop the charges, albeit very quietly.
“The sheriff’s office is not going to come out and say, ‘Hey, we were wrong,’ because there’s a liability issue,” Chase said.
Colin Young, president of the association, at that point said the case shouldn’t be discussed any further during a public meeting, since it hasn’t been resolved yet.
“This is ongoing,” Young said.
The case had actually been brought up by the association’s guest speaker, Charles P. Castellon, an Orlando attorney who specializes in real estate litigation. He noted that the state’s high home foreclosure rate was creating problems for tenants, home owners associations, and property managers alike — including vacation home managers — if owners fail to notify them that their property is heading into foreclosure until it’s too late, when the bank is ready to claim it.
“There are hot issues and questions that keep coming up,” Castellon said. “A manager was arrested for taking some furniture out of a property.”
That prompted Chase to stand up and defend Magical Memories, which has been operating for 15 years.
Castellon noted that if someone gets arrested and the charges are dropped, they’re now considered innocent in the eyes of the law.
“An arrest is not a conviction,” he said. “An arrest is not going to have any permanent consequences.”
He added that the case of Magical Memories highlights an ongoing challenge for property managers who oversee homes in foreclosure.
“What happens to the stuff inside,” he said. “When there’s a foreclosure, that’s a lien on the real property only, it’s not a lien on the furniture or anything considered to be personal property.”
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