By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Former bookkeeper of Kingsland Ocala Waterway Homeowners Association (FL), Debby Lee Underwood, was recently arrested for fraud. She is accused of stealing more than $11,000 from 2010-2014, and of falsifying bank deposit slips. Financial discrepancies were discovered by the association’s new office manager.
Two mistakes made by the association: accepting cash payments and not regularly auditing or reviewing bank statements.
Kingsland Ocala is an older community of single family homes, established in 1973. It is a no-frills HOA with low annual assessments, but still not immune to fraud.
Robert Colunga, 51, and Tom Pittman, 59, both face two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property: a first-degree felony.
Quote from District Attorney Nico LaHood:
“The phrase that was always said is ‘oh that’s civil, not criminal’. And that might be true, or it might be civil and criminal. I think we made a proper assessment of this case and our intent is to hold these folks accountable,” said LaHood, referring to law enforcement’s approach to similar cases before he took office.
Homeowners in Champion Springs HOA near San Antonio, Texas, have been fighting for a community center and pool for eight years. Colunga, former HOA Board President has collected over $300,000 from owners, and paid that money to contractor Pittman, but the project was never completed. In fact, the KENS-5 I-Team determined that there is no permit on file for construction.
Following his arrest, Colunga was placed on leave from his position as economic development director for the city of Windcrest. Pittman was a former city contractor. Owners say the former DA had been unwilling to investigate both men, despite their repeated complaints.
Champion Springs is one of several HOA phases in the Stone Oak master planned development, established in 1985. The Stone Oak POA was awarded Mega Community of the Year in 2015 by Community Associations Institute. Apparently the alleged $300,000 fraud and ongoing civil lawsuit did not factor into the award decision.
Kara Wren Myers, Vestavia Hills, Alabama, has been charged with theft. A Certified Public Accountant for 20 years, Myers is accused of stealing from Duncan Bridge Resort Condominium Owner’s Association, Inc.; the Vestavia Vipers All-Star Team; and the Vestavia Hills Girls Softball Association. Myers formerly held positions as an auditor and risk manager, and has been a respected member of the community. The investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed in the future.
Alabama residents are outraged that money was taken from youth sports teams. (Read the comments).
Duncan Bridge Resort is a 52-unit lakeside condominium.