By Deborah Goonan
Just about every week I read about another case of embezzlement or fraud in a homeowners or condo association. In the last couple of weeks, for example:
- a condo Treasurer from Wisconsin has been charged with diverting $25,000 from the HOA account
- a Pennsylvania woman, the daughther of a developer, faces charges of allegedly stealing $70,000 from the HOA they built and managed over several years,
- a property manager allegedly took $228,000 from a Florida condo association,
- a Colorado man has been charged with taking a half million dollars from an HOA he managed – this was his second offense, as he awaits sentencing on previous charges
- a former condo manager from the Florida Keys was sentenced to three years in prison for diverting $200,000 to her personal account
Is anyone wondering who keeps track of these white-collar crimes in our Association-Governed Residential Communities? In the US, we keep track of crimes against our governments. In fact, we even have specific laws with strict penalties for anyone convicted of violating the public trust, and mishandling taxpayer funds.
But even though HOAs are often regarded as mini-governments by elected officials, they are still private corporations in the eyes of the law. Therefore, when money disappears from an HOA, it’s handled as if the HOA were like any other business in America that experiences a theft. File a police report, and a claim with your insurance company.
HOA white-collar crimes hit too close to home, though. Perhaps there ought to be a special designation of criminal charges involving theft and fraud of assessments paid by homeowners. Then policy makers could track the relative impact upon homeowners and residents, and they would have the information they need to better craft solutions to the growing problem.