(WSVN) - A South Florida restaurant that has been open for decades was about to be shut down because of a city’s mistake, and the owners of a condo were fearing foreclosure. The solutions for them: call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Curley’s is one of the few places I can find that serves up great ham and red-eye gravy, but a year ago, Ernest wasn’t sure his Opa-Locka restaurant would even be open anymore.

Ernest Hill: “It’s just – it’s easy to give up and give in.”

The restaurant he and his mother opened 31 years ago was in danger because the City of Opa-Locka never notified the county the restaurant was operating.

Among other things, it meant Ernest had to install a new expensive grease trap.

Ernest Hill: “And I can’t afford to put a new grease trap.”

At a place that charges $3.50 for breakfast, Ernest didn’t have the thousands needed to stay open.

His story aired. South Florida really stepped in.

Ernest Hill: “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, it did, and I want to thank everybody for their kindness.”

Help Me Howard viewers donated $16,300 to Ernest to help make all the changes to Curley’s.

The door is open, the grill is sizzling, and Ernest is happy again.

Ernest Hill: “And I just want to say come out and enjoy the food, and Curley’s will be here another 31 years.”

We wish Sara could be so happy.

Sara Velasquez : “My mom’s vintage sunglasses were gone, a Gucci watch and another bracelet.”

Sara had hired a woman to take care of her cats while she was out of town.

Leetah Faye: “Hi there, my name is Leetah Faye. I’m a world famous dog walker.”

Not only was the woman also known as Leetah Faye Nickel accused of stealing $15,000 worth of property. She allegedly took something no amount of money could replace.

Sara Velasquez: “The urn where my baby’s ashes are, so I just panicked.”

Nickel texted me that she did not steal anything and had no idea what happened to the ashes.

Miami Beach Police found a pawn shop where some of the items had been pawned, but not the urn. They were looking for Leetah Faye Nickel.

Our story aired.

Police caught up with Nickel, charging her with four felonies.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “She’s facing years in prison, but in all likelihood, because she has no prior criminal record, she will receive probation plus restitution.”

But no amount of money can replace the ashes of Sara’s son.

Iris Gonzalez: “We don’t have that money.”

At Arbor Key in Tamarac, the majority of residents faced losing their condos.

Harvey Brown: “Twenty-two thousand [dollars]. I’ve got to come up with that by August 1st.”

A group of investors had bought 40 units, got on the board and approved a special assessment that had to be paid in full, instead of a payment plan.

Impossible, many residents said.

Ernesto Cuellar: “They want to put as many people as they can in foreclosure, and once the property goes on the market, they will buy it, and they will buy it cheap.”

Our story aired.

Iris Gonzalez then organized the residents to try to recall the investor board.

They hired an attorney. The investor board hired one.

As it dragged on, the judge overseeing the case offered some advice.

Judge David Haimes: “See if you can work it out, rather than take all the homeowners association money and spend it on attorneys.”

One hundred and fifty-four residents then voted to recall the board.

An arbitrator ruled the recall election was valid. The residents won.

Paul Arcia: “Yes, that’s very good news, and it was a great deal of work. The arbitrator entered an order removing the investor board and replacing it with the candidates that were aligned with Ms. Iris.”

Now Iris and the new board will determine how much of the special assessment is necessary and give owners time to pay it.

Of course, the board made up of investors can appeal the ruling to try to stay in power.

We will keep following the investors vs. the other owners.

Cooked up a problem that’s left you fried? Need to egg someone on to help? We’re on the menu, and we’ll try to serve up a solution.

With this Help me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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