Profile of a Predator

Tennis pro Paul Edwards hustles both on and off the court

Heinrich knew nothing of this talk or of his mother's stroke. He didn't find out about the stroke until he received a letter dated January 28, 2001, purportedly dictated to Edwards by Buettner. "The fact that you didn't call me tells me something about your feelings toward me, but I realize you are a free man in a free world." Later in the letter, Buettner explained she planned to renovate the Pompano Beach home and wanted Heinrich to remove his belongings.

Heinrich was flabbergasted. He left several messages for Edwards, signature diatribes, in which he demanded to know why Edwards hadn't notified him of his mother's condition.

On January 29, Edwards entered Buettner's apartment and found her unconscious. He telephoned 911, and an ambulance rushed Buettner to the hospital. She had lapsed into a diabetic coma. Although she appeared near death, once her blood sugar was stabilized, Buettner quickly rebounded. Later that same day, Edwards drove her home. On the way, Buettner says, he pressed her to sign over power of attorney to him. With that document, Edwards could legally sign Buettner's checks, manage her affairs, and make decisions if she were incapable. Buettner refused to sign, even when Edwards parked the car at the office of a notary public. "I said, why are we stopping here?" Buettner recalls. "Oh, he got very mad at me then. He called me a Nazi."

Colby Katz
The sounds of polka once kept guests in the Noble's courtyard dancing into the wee hours, but the only guest now is grim desperation
Colby Katz
The sounds of polka once kept guests in the Noble's courtyard dancing into the wee hours, but the only guest now is grim desperation

Details

Dramatis Personae

Luise Buettner
motel owner

Heinrich
her son

Paul Joseph Edwards/Pavel Josef Placek
Buettner's "caretaker"

Theresa Edwards
lawyer, Edwards's ex-wife

Susan Cerny
Heinrich's ex-girlfriend and mother of his three daughters

Heinrich Buettner and Paul Edwards didn't speak until February 5. Heinrich tape-recorded the conversation.

"I want to know if we can meet tomorrow morning," Edwards began. "The reason I ask this is because at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the courthouse downtown, the state and all kinds of agencies are meeting to decide what charges to bring against you. The SEC, the IRS, the FBI, and the State of Florida, and they have over 60 charges against you." Edwards explained that Cerny had provided damning information about Heinrich related to the child-support claim. If Heinrich didn't act, Edwards told him, he faced serious jail time.

But Edwards had a solution. He said the authorities had given him power to negotiate. If Heinrich agreed to sign the $650,000 settlement agreement with Susan Cerny, all charges would be dropped. That confused Heinrich. "I don't see what one has to do with the other," he said.

In addition to the $650,000 settlement, Edwards said Luise Buettner had agreed to sell the motel. She would then move into the Pompano Beach home with Edwards, Edwards's mother, an ex-girlfriend, and Paul's son (whose mother, Theresa Edwards, asked not be named in this story). If Heinrich refused to agree to the arrangement, Paul said he would be leaving the motel. "I'll leave you to tell your mother why I'm gone," he threatened.

That wasn't the only angle Edwards was working. On the evening of February 12, 2001, at Christopher's, a popular nightspot for Fort Lauderdale singles of a certain age, Paul wooed 34-year-old Monica Palmero with tales of his degrees and purported wealth. He told her he owned the Noble Apartments and planned to sell. On Valentine's Day, two days after meeting, the pair married.

Perhaps it was jealousy, maybe some other emotion, but when Edwards pulled up in the Blazer with Palmero on February 15, Buettner became enraged. She was picking her way through the courtyard in her wheelchair when Paul arrived.

"What are you doing in my car?" Buettner recalls shouting at Palmero.

"This is my husband's car and my husband's motel, and you don't have anything to say about it" was Palmero's reply, according to Buettner. Monica Palmero could not be reached for comment.

When Edwards drove off, Buettner reported the Blazer stolen. The following day, he told her he had driven it into a lake. That same day, police stopped him in the SUV a few blocks from the Noble Apartments. He had three credit cards in his pockets that he had taken out in Luise Buettner's name and $5000 in cash he claimed he had saved from his work at the Noble. Buettner says Edwards refused payment from her for his labor.

On February 23, Palmero filed for an annulment of the marriage, saying it had been "induced by false representations" and that the "parties never consummated the marriage." The annulment was granted.

Palmero provided the Buettners with several nasty e-mails Edwards typed to her after bailing out of jail in which he referred to her as "a stupid and uneducated girl" and threatened to turn the Swiss native in to the INS. "Luise got mad at you because she was in love with me and she thought that me being married to you, I would leave her," Edwards wrote. "No, I would not because I had a buyer for the hotel with two million dollars and she (Luise) told me if the place sold I would get one million bucks. And if I would get money, I would share it with you if only I would not find out that you are such [a] lying female."

Buettner says Edwards fabricated the claim she would give him $1 million to sell the Noble.

Edwards asked Heinrich's ex-girlfriend, Susan Cerny, to post the $1000 bond to bail him from jail. Cerny was surprised that the man who claimed he was an international financier wouldn't have $1000, but she figured the grand-theft auto charge was Heinrich's work. For several weeks after posting bond, Edwards lived in the Cerny home.

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