Disturbing reports of violence crime in private communities
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
There’s no guarantee that a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association will be either safe or friendly.
That point is clearly illustrated by events reported at a Natrona County, Wyoming, housing subdivision. Last November, according to reports and court records, HOA board President Wade Curtis Miller got drunk and went on a rampage against Brandt Loepp, a tenant renting a home on the 5000 block of Okeepa Street.
At the time, Miller objected to the poor condition of the home in which Loepp resided. Miller admitted to breaking and entering the property, urinating on the resident’s generator (gross!), breaking a sliding glass door, and threatening the victim with a wooden post.
Miller ended up getting probation for his criminal offenses. Apparently, the light sentence was deemed appropriate, because, shortly after the incident last November, Loepp was reportedly arrested on felony charges related to dealing methamphetamine.
Assuming the alleged meth making was taking place in the home, that certainly explains the poor condition of the property Loepp was renting.
Nevertheless, it’s quite disturbing when an HOA leader resorts to vigilante justice while under the influence of alcohol.
CASPER-AREA MAN SENTENCED TO PROBATION FOR UNLAWFUL ENTRY
TOM MORTONAugust 2, 2018
A Natrona County man was sentenced to three years probation Thursday for breaking into a neighbor’s home in November.
Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking handed down the sentence to Wade Curtis Miller, who pleaded guilty in May to one count of unlawful entry. The charge, a felony, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Three other counts filed against Miller were dismissed per the plea deal.
Court records say Miller, who lived in the 5000 block of Okeepa — west of Casper off Wyoming Highway 220 — was president of the homeowner’s association and had an “ongoing battle” with the victim regarding the condition of the victim’s rented property.
On Nov. 26, Miller went to the victim’s house and urinated in the victim’s generator. An argument ensued, and the victim then went back inside his house.
Miller reportedly picked up a wooden post and used it to break the victim’s sliding glass door. He then entered the victim’s home and hit the victim with the post. During the change of plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Dan Itzen told the court that Miller was too intoxicated to remember the event.
Thursday, Itzen said the victim, Brandt Loepp, had been on the run because he was an alleged methamphetamine dealer.
Loepp was recently arrested and has been charged with several felonies, Itzen said.
Regular readers of IAC know that criminal activity can thrive in community associations — even gated subdivisions — because local governments don’t support private communities with crime prevention services, such as regular officer patrols.
Criminals take advantage of the community’s remote location, infrequent of seasonal residency, neighbors that keep to themselves, or a false sense of security, and set up shop in vacant properties or cheap rentals owned by absentee landlords.
To prevent or eliminate criminal activity, sometimes HOA boards are forced to pay the local sheriff for “extra” public services, not normally available to private communities. Other HOAs may hire private security guards, armed or unarmed — a poor substitute for trained officers of the law who are bound by Constitutional constraints.
But when the association does not have the money to pay for added security, it creates an environment that is ripe for self-appointed, untrained, and sometimes unhinged HOA police officers.
Or, worse yet, the criminals themselves can take over the HOA board, wreaking havoc on residents, stealing from the association’s banks accounts, or engaging in fraudulent activity.
Sometimes it’s the community manager that crosses the line, as was the case with Jeffrey S. Koger of Koger Management, Fairfax County, Virginia. Koger was sentenced In 2009 to 66 years in prison following a violent shootout with police officers, while under investigation for numerous criminal charges of embezzlement. The Washington Post reported that Koger was found guilty of stealing $3 million from 400 HOAs in the county.
In another case of shocking HOA violence, a Miami-area condo owner was recently arrested after police were tipped off on a plot to burn down the building. Walter Edward Stolper, 72-years old, had been involved in a long-running dispute with his condo association, complaining of persistent mold contamination.
Stopler told another condo resident of his intention to burn down the building in order to ‘kill all Jews,’ in apparent revenge for the condo association’s alleged mistreatment of the issue.
Read the following report in the New York Times for details.
These and other reports should lead to serious study of the unintended social consequences of privatization of community development, and the top-down, authoritarian rule that so is typical in today’s modern association-governed communities.