KISSIMMEE – A property management firm is launching a media offensive, urging the public not to rush to judgment following the arrest of the company’s owner on theft charges.
“The public relations blitz is starting today, because what has been reported is not factual,” said Jeff Chase, spokesman for Magical Memories, a vacation home property management firm on Poinciana Boulevard off U.S. 192.
Last week, Osceola County detectives arrested Jeanne Kline, owner of Magical Memories, and charged her with grand theft. Chase said the firm is a good one, and he promised that when the truth comes out, Kline will be fully vindicated.
“She employs 50 people here,” Chase said. “It’s just ludicrous that she would in any way attempt to steal furniture. We’ve been in the area for 15 years. We’re one of the larger property managers in the area. We have an excellent client track record.”
The arrest has generated a huge amount of buzz within the fast growing vacation home industry, and the trade association representing property managers – the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managements Association – is likely to have its ethics board investigate the arrest. Members sign an ethics contract with they join the association, and both Kline and Chase belong to it.
The case started last month, after someone contacted the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office to say 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 also said they had interviewed one of Kline’s employees, who told them Kline had removed the victim’s furniture and décor from the home 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 the situation completely misunderstood.
“The situation is that we had an owner that we had a five year relationship with, and she allowed her condo to go into foreclosure,” Chase said. “She asked us if we would be interested in purchasing the furniture. We were not all that interested, so we offered her $200 for it.”
The owner, who lives in New York, declined, Chase said.
“The house had been rented out, and Realtors had been in and out since then,” he said. “Then a friend of the owner came over there and said, ‘You’re missing towels, hampers, a playpen, pillows, some soft goods.’ Never, ever, ever was it suggested any furniture was taken. But the owner said, ‘Look, you took this stuff,’ and we needed to replace it. We said we didn’t take this stuff, we shouldn’t have to replace this stuff.
“Then all of a sudden we received an email from her that she now wanted $3,500 for pain and suffering,” Chase added. “She wanted us to waive her management fees and take no commission from bookings. A few days later the sheriff’s deputies came by our office.”
While speaking with the Osceola detectives, Chase said, “the employee said she thought she might know where some of the things were, and thought they might be in our warehouse. From there, this has just exploded into this nightmare. The police officers told Jeanne, ‘Look, either pay $3,500 to the victim or we’ll arrest you.’ “
Chase said the furniture has been donated to Tampa Christian Supply by the owner on July 8, and that nothing had been stolen. He said the owner has no case against them.
“I don’t know how she came up with $3,500,” he said. “She owes the homeowners association $6,000. The bottom line is Jeanne Kline didn’t steal anything, and the affidavit (for the arrest warrant) doesn’t say she took anything. The affidavit does not state that Jeanne took or replaced any furniture. It says soft goods, pillows, towels or hampers were taken from the property. She was basically blackmailing us into paying her $3,500.”
Kline’s attorney, Ernest J. Mullins of Kissimmee, issued a statement noting that a “review of the affidavit supporting the (arrest) warrant does not in any way indicate that Jeanne Kline committed the alleged crime as reported by both the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department and local news agencies, and furthermore the claims made in the affidavit are preposterous and are being strenuously disputed.”
Mullins said the contents of the house had been donoted to Tampa Christian Supply by the property owner, Sharita Rivera.
“Jeanne Kline has been an Osceola County resident since 1980 and has owned Magical Memories since 1995,” Mullins wrote. “She is a law-abiding citizen with no track record or history of wrongdoing. The charges and arrest of Jeanne Kline are a tragic overstatement and misuse of our legal system. Jeanne Kline adamantly denies any wrong doing and will fight the charges vigorously to clear both her name and that of her company’s.”
Chase added that when all the facts come out, “We feel confident there’s no case. No where in the affidavit does it say Jeanne Kline stole anything. This was a civil matter that the police probably should never have gotten involved in.”
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