HOA, condo, & co-op corruption, fraud, & theft roundup (July 2018)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Debit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and common jewelry theft on this month’s roundup.

McKenzie County HOA president accused of embezzling $30K (ND)

By Jamie Kelly editor@willistonherald.com Jul 25, 2018

Police say the president of a McKenzie County homeowners association embezzled nearly $30,000 from the association.

Russell Winchester, 55, was charged Wednesday with making deceptive writings in excess of $10,000, theft of between $10,000 and $50,000 and forgery of between $10,000 and $50,000, all class B felonies. He was ordered held Wednesday on $100,000 bond.

Winchester, who was the president of the Buffalo Hills Homeowners Association, is accused of making fraudulent transactions totally $28,081.20 over the course of more than a year, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. The transactions included $11,000 to American Express and more than $2,000 to Verizon.

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Winchester apparently admits to taking money from his HOA, promising to pay it back. But while many who embezzle money make such promises, few follow through unless forced to do so. 

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Accused Woodstock embezzler applies for accelerated rehab (CT)

By John Penney
jpenney@norwichbulletin.com, (860) 857-6965

Posted Jul 17, 2018 at 5:18 PM
Updated Jul 18, 2018 at 7:40 AM

DANIELSON — A Woodstock man accused of embezzling more than $130,000 while serving as treasurer of a condominium association applied Friday for an accelerated rehabilitation program that, if granted, would leave him without a criminal record.

Attorney Christian Sarantopoulos submitted the stage one application at Danielson Superior Court on behalf of his client, Derek Jette, 37, of 81 Underwood Road. In the interim before Jette’s next court appearance on Aug. 16, notification on the application will be submitted to victims while probation officials determine Jette’s eligibility.

Jette, who is free on a $300,000 bond, was charged in March after a month-long investigation into discrepancies in the accounts of the Fawn Ridge Condominium Association, according to an arrest warrant application.

Police said Dennis Champney, the recently appointed president of the association, approached police March 3 and accused Jette of embezzling condo funds for the last five years. He said $137,531 was discovered missing after he began investigating high arsenic levels in the complex’s water system.

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According to this report, public records indicate that Jette has repaid his $158K debt to the condo association. The embezzlement took place over the course of several years, and Jette admitted to using the condo association’s debit card for personal expenses. 

Will the judge grant Accelerated Rehabilitation in this case, even though Jette’s behavior prevented correction of high Arsenic levels in the communities water supply? 


Judge court legal money gavel
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Man gets 32 years in prison for HOA-foreclosure home-buying scheme (NC)

Posted 2:13 p.m. Monday July 9, 2018
Updated 5:04 p.m. Monday July 9, 2018

By Cullen Browder, WRAL anchor/reporter

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Wake Forest man was sentenced Monday to 32 years in federal prison for fraudulently scooping up homes in foreclosure.

Xavier Milton Earquhart, who has been the subject of a WRAL News investigation for four years, was found guilty in March of more than a dozen counts related to bank fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

Earquhart was arrested in Wake Forest in June 2014 when residents on Coral Bell Drive saw him drilling out the locks of a nearby house and called police. Police eventually dropped all charges against him when he showed that he had purchased the title of the $300,000-plus home, which the Heritage Wake Forest Homeowners Association had foreclosed on for nonpayment of dues, for $3,800.

The arrest kick-started a federal investigation into Earquhart’s real estate transactions.

Authorities said Earquhart illegally obtained eight properties in Wake Forest, Cary, Holly Springs, Durham and Charlotte through HOA foreclosures, using aliases to bid on properties and funneling money through holding companies. He would produce fraudulent documents showing the mortgages had been paid off and that he had clean titles to the properties and would liquidate the holding companies as soon as the properties had been resold, authorities said.

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This criminal scheme was so heinous that Earquhart will be locked up for decades. For several years, the fraudster was able to get away with picking up homes for pennies on the dollar at HOA foreclosure sales. I have a hunch that this case was aggressively prosecuted because the banks holding mortgages on these eight homes had to endure significant losses.


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Ex-condo treasurer pleads guilty (OH)

Raymond L. Smith, Reporter, Tribune Chronicle
July 6, 2018

WARREN — The former treasurer of the Gemwood XX Condo Homeowners Association who stole money from the group pleaded guilty Monday to theft in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Michele M. Sember, 151 Diamond Way, Cortland, was accused of making 48 transfers out of the group’s account at Seven Seventeen Credit Union into her bank account from Sept. 2, 2016, through Oct. 31, 2017.

It’s estimated Sember stole more than $20,000 from the association, according to Charles Morrow, Trumbull County assistant prosecutor.

A pre-sentence investigation was ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge Peter J. Kontos.

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According to the article, Sember still believes she has done no wrong, because she always intended upon returning the money to the condo association. This is a common profile for an embezzler: the person has a need and the opportunity to “borrow” money from their employer or non-profit organization. There’s often a sense of entitlement to use those funds as needed, under the rationalization that the funds will be paid back. In most cases, the money stolen from the organization is never fully repaid. 

(Pixabay.com free image)


Former condominiums maintenance worker charged with stealing from 19 residents (MA)

By: Monica Ricci
Posted: Jun 25, 2018 03:54 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 25, 2018 05:43 PM EDT

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A former condominiums maintenance worker has been charged with stealing jewelry from residents in Springfield.

Springfield Police Department spokesman Ryan Walsh told 22News that after a year-long investigation, 52-year-old Anthony Delestre has been indicted on 43 counts of theft against 19 different victims who lived at Georgetown Condominiums.

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Maintenance workers often have keys to enter condominium units. That should only happen in an emergency, or a pre-arranged service call. It is alleged that the suspect helped himself to jewelry that didn’t belong to him. 

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