Posted by Deborah Goonan
Kudos to the Nevada Review Journal for fighting for the public’s right to know exactly what happened in the largest HOA criminal corruption ring ever investigated. Jeff German at the News Journal has been on top of this story for nearly 8 years. You can read about the court victory here.
Article Courtesy of The Las Vegas Review-Journal, By Jeff German, Published August 16, 2015
The News Journal has a second request to open files of the leak investigation, focusing on the District Attorney’s Office. A written decision is expected soon.
As we reflect on the level of corruption and deep conspiracy that was allowed to fester in Nevada before anyone would even consider investigating, and the fact that it took the FBI eight years to compile evidence and wrap things up, what have we learned?
- There is a severe lack of oversight in our Homeowners’ Associations
- HOA Elections are quite easily rigged
- Straw buyers are not hard to find, and once enough of them buy into a HOA, they own enough votes to easily take over the Board to advance their agenda
- The corporate structure of HOA is fraught with loopholes for opportunists to misuse or steal other people’s money
- Catching mortgage fraud after the fact did not prevent millions of dollars of damage done to homeowners, who ultimately had to pay for massive fraud and theft
- Homeowners who suspected criminal activity were ignored for quite a long time before an investigation was begun
- Local and state law enforcement were either unable or unwilling to conduct a thorough investigation into wrongdoing, possibly because attorneys, law enforcement, and a judge were involved
- It took intervention at the Federal level to crack the case open, and by that time, it involved at least 42 individuals who were later convicted for taking part in the scheme
- The public may never learn the entire truth, despite enormous costs to US taxpayers to fund an 8-year investigation and prosecution
And yet, despite the entire ordeal, there has been no meaningful reform of HOA governance, nor has the industry moved to substantially improve financial disclosure. States have made no attempt to provide consumer protection. Industry trade lobbies, led by Community Associations Institute (CAI) and home builders have fought hard to maintain the status quo, and continue to do so, state by state. They have resisted serious discussion of the FBI investigation in Nevada, many dismissing it as an aberration isolated to one famous city in one state.
But what happened in Nevada can and does happen elsewhere, at least to some degree. With billions of dollars at stake, it would be foolish to assume massive HOA fraud can never happen again. Americans must demand that control be placed back in the hands of consumers rather than special interests and their local and state government cronies. And regaining control of our homes and our daily lives begins with knowing our rights and always obtaining full disclosure.
Time to crack open those sealed files and expose the dirty truth.