HOA, condo & co-op corruption and fraud roundup (Oct. 2019)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Debgoonan@icloud.com

A noticeable pattern of theft this month: trusted HOA managers, treasurers embezzling money, then falsifying records to cover up their alleged crimes. Plus: one of Chicago’s condo attorneys suspended for one year.


Illinois

Condo attorney suspended, after he falsified financial records at his former law firm

The state agency that regulates legal professionals, Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), recently suspended Michael Shifrin, of Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit.

ARDC says that Shifrin used the law firm’s electronic records management system to inflate his billable hours by more than $200,000. As a result, the attorney was overpaid by at least $30,000, at the expense of other lawyers at KSN.

The embezzlement scheme reportedly took place over the course of 4 years, from 2014 to 2018, spread out over 200 transactions. Michael Shifrin admitted to changing his billable hours, and has since paid back the money he did not earn.

According to the Loop North News:

Shifrin had been with KSN since 2007. In 2014, he became a non-equity principal at the firm, working in its condominium department. He taught classes for Community Association Institute, a trade association that assists volunteer members of condo boards. He was once co-chair of CAI’s membership committee.

After Shifrin left KSN in 2018, he began his own private practice, specializing in homeowner association law. His one-year suspension began on October 7.

Source:

Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit condo attorney suspended over billing scheme
By Steven Dahlman |  Loop North News | 29-Sep-19


Washington State

HOA considers $300K special assessment to cover loss from embezzlement

Last year, Clearwood Community Association of Yelm filed a civil lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against its former bookkeeper, Dolanna K. Burnett. At the time, Burnett was suspected of embezzling close to $300,000. However a recent forensic auditor’s report estimates the total amount of money stolen to be somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000.

According to the auditor, between 2014 and 2018, Burnett wrote unauthorized checks to herself, and covered up the crime by transferring money between accounts.

Nisqually Valley News reports that Burnett was previously convicted in 2014 on charges of theft, identity theft, and forgery during her employment with the Tacoma Health Department. It’s unknown whether the HOA board conducted a background check before hiring Burnett.

Clearwood Community Association was established in 1974. It consists of more than 1000 homes and 1300 residential and recreational lots. Its amenities include lakes, 14 miles of wooded trails, several sports facilities, and a swimming pool and hot tub. CCA also maintains its own water system and 16 miles of private roads.

The HOA is planning several Town Hall meetings next month to discuss the 2020 budget, and a possible special assessment to cover the budget shortfall caused by the embezzlement. A special membership meeting is scheduled for December 14, 2019.

CCA President Aaron Lang explains the situation in this 10-minute YouTube video, posted on the Clearwood Community Association’s Website.

Sources:

Preliminary Audit Finds Clearwood Embezzlement Larger Than First Thought
Forensic Auditor Says Former Bookkeeper Stole $300,000 to $400,000; Vote Planned on Repayment (Nisqually Valley News)
By Eric Rosane / erosane@yelmonline.com
Oct 23, 2019

Clearwood Community Association Members to Vote on $300K Embezzlement Repayment
More Information to Come at Upcoming Meetings
By Eric Rosane / erosane@yelmonline.com


Pennsylvania & New Jersey

Property manager arrested (again) for alleged thefts of nearly $1 million from two condo associations

Chester County police arrested William Huyler III, 40, last week. Huyler is reportedly charged with multiple counts of theft, forgery, and related offenses, but was released on $250,000 unsecured bail.

Investigators allege Hulyer stole $982,000 from the Kings Mill at Kings Grant Condominium Association in Marlton and the Goshen Valley III Condominium Association in East Goshen Township.

Authorities accuse the property manager of commingling funds of both condo associations with his business account for East Hill Property Management, and creating false bank statements to cover up the alleged thefts.

Police say that Huyler used the cash to buy himself a home for $867,000.

If Huyler’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he also faces separate charged in Montgomery County for alleged thefts involving Crooked Lane Crossing Condominium Association in Upper Merion.

Source:

A Chester County property manager embezzled almost $1 million from condo associations, DA says
Philadelphia Inquirer
by Vinny Vella, Updated: October 22, 2019

Property manager stole $1M from condo associations and used cash to buy a house, cops say
Posted Oct 24, 2019
By Jeff Goldman,| NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

No jail time for former Lycoming County prothonotary clerk who repaid money stolen from HOA

Ryan A. Workman, 28, admitted to theft of $41,000 from the Homewood Oaks Townhouse Association. After he repaid the HOA, a Lycoming County judge sentenced Workman to three years’ probation and 100 hours of community service.

According to a plea agreement, charges of forgery, receiving stolen property and tampering with records were dismissed.

Workman once served as a clerk in the prothonotary’s office, but, upon his arrest, Lycoming County placed him on administrative leave. Workman has since resigned.

Workman is the grandson of the former HOA treasurer in Homewood Oaks. He admitted to writing checks to himself and creating fake records to cover up the thefts. He was performing the duties of HOA treasurer at the time, even though he was not a member of the association and not elected to its board.

Homeowners trusted Workman, because he was known as a religious man, who once sang sacred music at the Vatican.

Source:

Ex-prothonotary clerk gets probation after paying back money he stole from homeowners association
Posted Oct 11, 2019| By John Beauge | Special to PennLive
WILLIAMSPORT


Massachusetts

Business denies charges of theft from condo association

Shane Parker, 33, was recently indicted on larceny theft charges. Investigators say he stole $1,200 from the Upper Orchard II Condominium Association between August 2017 and December 2018.

Upper Orchard II is a small, 28-unit community in Northampton.

In 2016, he became the owner of a general contracting business, registered as P & B New England Services LLC, and dissolved in 2018.

Parker has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.

Source:

Leyden man arraigned for larceny at condo association (MA)
By BERA DUNAU
Staff Writer, Daily Hampshire Gazette | Published: 10/21/2019 9:08:19 PM


South Carolina

Owner of HOA management company turns himself into police, charged with stealing $700K from 3 HOAs

Nicholas Galipeau, 39, owner of Commercial Management Company LLC, has turned himself into Greenville County police, following accusations of theft from the Stonehaven community association.

For several weeks, Deputies have been investigating complaints of money missing from at least three different HOAs in the County, totaling $700,000, according to local reports.

In addition to Stonehaven, the Morning Mist and Dunwoody homeowners associations have also reported alleged thefts while under the management of Galipeau’s company. ♦

Sources:

Man accused of stealing $700k from HOA funds in Greenville Co., deputies say
by: WSPA Staff
News 7 | Posted: Oct 30, 2019 / 03:52 PM EDT / Updated: Oct 30, 2019 / 04:34 PM EDT

Call sent out to Greenville County HOAs after company accused of misusing $500,000, deputies say
At least three community HOAs affected so far | WYFF 4
Updated: 12:06 PM EDT Oct 2, 2019

Man stole thousands of dollars from various Upstate HOAs, deputies say
Nicholas Galipeau charged with 10 counts of breach of trust
WYYF 4 | Updated: 6:40 PM EDT Oct 30, 2019