By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Timberlake has exploited the people of Miramar Gardens and Vista Verde by preying on homeowners' fears of losing their properties to foreclosure if they don't pay their maintenance fees, he says. "The attorneys they hire do nothing but rip people off with excessive legal fees. Samira Gazhai, the attorney they had before Glazer, was so blatantly dishonest that they had to get rid of her." According to court documents filed by the two HOAs against nonpaying homeowners, Gazhai represented the associations for a brief period in 2000. During her tenure, she would charge each maintenance fee-owing homeowner $475 in attorney fees, $540 in late charges, and $275 for a title search. Even Rachel Dugger acknowledges that Gazhai was let go because of her exorbitant fees.
After Vista Verde resident Eloise Nelson stopped paying her association dues in 1999, Glazer filed a lien against her for more than $4000 in unpaid maintenance and attorney fees. Nelson says she was able to pay off the association through a loan she obtained from the Universal Truth Center. "But I'm not satisfied with their service," she says of Timberlake. "Look around. What do they do that we couldn't do ourselves? Then they write up a whole bunch of rules like we living in some condo on Miami Beach."
Nelson is convinced that Timberlake, the church, and the county have a grand plan in place to redevelop both communities into single-family homes. "But they don't want to do it the right way by offering you fair market value for your property," she theorizes. "They want to strong-arm you, muscle you out, Mafiosi-style."
The problem, says activist Leroy Jones, is that there was not much the county or Commissioner Betty Ferguson, whom many residents blame for allowing Timberlake to enter into their lives, could do. "Her hands were kind of tied," Jones says. "She had to stay out of it because of the board members of the two associations. They could have terminated Timberlake if they wanted to, but for whatever reason chose not to. I think the people who sit on the boards are people who don't face the same financial struggles that the other homeowners face." Of Perez, he says, "She cared about everyone else who was in the same situation she was in. We need more people like her in low-income neighborhoods."
Outside her home, Perez is scolding her son Omar to lay off the firecrackers he keeps igniting in the neighbor's front yard. She is mystified that the two boards remain so loyal to Timberlake and dismisses Miller's characterization that she is a "community leech" because she has never paid her maintenance fee. "Yeah, I'm going to risk putting my six kids out on the street for a measly $35 a month," she scoffs. "I'm the freak because I have invested all this time fighting them. As if I have nothing better to do with my life other than fight these damn delinquents."