HOA, Condo Corruption, Fraud, Embezzlement round up (March 2017)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


This month’s collection includes sentencing of convicted embezzlers in Florida, a potential class action lawsuit for deceptive business practices at a South Beach condominium, an arrest in connection with a condo rental scam, and a disturbing case of environmental fraud in the Boston area.

Homeowners’ association treasurer gets 3 years for stealing $122,779

Posted Mar 17, 2017 at 9:50 PM
Updated Mar 17, 2017 at 10:06 PM

By Suzie Schottelkotte

BARTOW — The 60-year-old former treasurer of Cimarron Homeowners Association near Medulla was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for stealing $122,779 from the group over an 11-year span.

Martha Beard, who still lives in the 72-home community, told Circuit Judge Wayne Durden during Friday’s hearing that she had intended to pay the money back, but the debt became too great.

“This was a major error in judgment on my part,” she said, “and I take full responsibility.”

Her son, 33-year-old Matthew Beard, a freelance sound technician for entertainment venues, was sentenced to two years in prison Friday for his role in the theft. His mother allowed him to use the association’s debit card, as well, piling up about $20,000 of the total that was taken.

They did repay $12,622 in four deposits before the theft was discovered. Including that money, they stole a total $135,400.

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Curiously, this article was published in a small community newspaper, and not reported in the Orlando Sentinel or major TV news stations, in a state where the general public is up in arms over widespread corruption in association-governed communities. Given the amount of the theft and the relatively stiff sentence, you would think this story would be all over the news in Florida. 

In addition to jail time for the mother and son duo, Martha Beard was sentenced to 20 years probation, and Matthew Beard to 10 years probation. Several angry homeowners were in the courtroom the day of sentencing. 



Icon South Beach renter pursues class action lawsuit against condo association over application fees
Suit says board charges applicants $250 fee, $150 more than the Florida law allows

March 08, 2017 01:30PM
By Francisco Alvarado

A recently filed lawsuit alleges the Icon South Beach’s condominium association charges non-refundable application fees in excess of what is allowed by Florida law.

The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court by Icon South Beach renter Derek Schwartz, but could end up involving more than 100 plaintiffs, according to the complaint.
Attorneys representing Schwartz and Icon Condominium Association did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

In order to rent or purchase one of the 290 units at Icon South Beach, a 42-story luxury tower at 450 Alton Road, a potential buyer or tenant must fill out an application and seek approval from the condo association, the lawsuit states. However, the Icon board charges applicants a $250 processing fee that is $150 more than the Florida Condominium Act allows, the lawsuit says.

“This deceptive and unfair scheme was used by Icon to line its pockets at the expense of Florida consumers,” the lawsuit says. “The Florida Condominium Act prohibits condominium associations from charging transfer fees of more than $100 per applicant.”

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Isn’t is amazing how some condo associations think they can blatantly ignore the law with regard to fees? Icon South Beach is a high-end condo tower suitable for millionaires, so I suppose condo management thinks their buyers and tenants can well afford to pay more for application fees. Of course, the well-to-do can also well afford to file a lawsuit to uphold their legal rights. 


SWFL man accused of scamming seasonal visitors

Published: February 11, 2017 11:46 PM EDT

Sabrina Lolo (WINK News)

BONITA BEACH, Fla. A 57-year-old man was arrested Friday for allegedly stealing more than $26,000 from seasonal visitors, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

John Hayes, of Bonita Springs, is facing fraud charges after he triple booked his Glen Manor condo at 76 Fourth St. and charged the victims without any intention of renting the condo to them, deputies said.

Judy Hartlieb, a victim who was visiting from Illinois, found the listing in March 2016 on VRBO, a vacation rental website. When she tried to book the condo, Hayes told her he didn’t want to go through the website, she said.

“He wanted all of the money upfront, about $5,500 dollars, and he wanted a check,” she said.

Read more (VIDEO):

SWFL man accused of scamming seasonal visitors


Thousands of people flock to Florida in the winter months, to escape the cold, snowy days in northern states. But beware of rental scams like this one. Hartlieb was wise to use VRBO’s secure site to book her rental, because now there is a record of the alleged fraud. The story was also reported on NBC Miami http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Southwest-Florida-Realtor-Arrested-After-Vacation-Rental-Scam-413688653.html

Environmental Fraud

AG: Fitchburg man falsified wastewater reports

Sentinel & Enterprise
UPDATED: 03/25/2017 09:40:11 AM EDT

Staff report

BOSTON — The president of a private wastewater-treatment company and an engineering firm in Fitchburg was indicted on dozens of charges in connection with allegedly falsifying wastewater samples and test results at three condominium facilities including the Village of Flat Hill in Lunenburg, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Friday.

Kent Oldfield, 52, of 601 Shea St., Fitchburg, the president of SRA Inc. and New England Engineering Group LLC, was indicted Friday by a statewide grand jury, said Healy in a press release, on six misdemeanor counts of knowingly tampering with wastewater test methods and 52 misdemeanor counts of knowingly making false reports to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“The public relies on certified operators like the defendant to ensure that harmful pollutants are removed from wastewater discharged directly into the ground in our communities,” said Healey in the release. “Those who falsify these reports, which can have significant public health and environmental consequences, are violating the law.”

Oldfield said Friday he was unaware of the indictments.

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Fraud does not always involve direct theft. Sometimes, fraudulent acts threaten public health. The allegations in this case are disturbing, because investigators say that improperly treated waste water from three condominium associations was discharged into the watershed, potentially contaminating groundwater. The reason for falsifying water samples and test results – to avoid permit violation fees and penalties, plus the inevitable cost of repairing wastewater facilities.  

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