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Ex-treasurer charged with $267,000 theft

$267,000 taken from homeowners group

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 7:47 PM
Last updated Wednesday, May 8, 2013 1:42 AM
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The former treasurer of an Evans neighborhood association has been charged with stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from the organization.

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Vanover  Valerie Rowell
Valerie Rowell
Vanover

Laurie Wainwright Vanover, 45, of the 1400 block of Andover Court, was charged with multiple counts of financial transaction card fraud, computer theft, theft by taking and theft by conversion after turning herself in Tuesday morning at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, said Capt. Steve Morris.

Vanover was released after posting a $10,100 bond, Morris said.

Vanover, who cooperated in the investigation, is accused of stealing $267,663.08 from the Stratford Community Association between November 2008 and December 2012, while she served as treasurer of the organization, Morris said.

Association President Tom Gorta first reported to police that funds were missing from the account on Dec. 19, and initially investigators estimated about $192,000 was missing from the neighborhood’s accounts.

Gorta said he’s not surprised that the amount of money Vanover is accused of stealing is more than he originally identified.

“It’s more, but it’s not that much more,” Gorta said

During the nearly five-month investigation that followed, with Vanover’s assistance, auditors were able to find $135,155.50 listed as stolen through checks she wrote or converted to her use; $115,115.10 had been taken through computer transactions; and $17,352.48 was taken through financial transaction card fraud, much of it through ATM withdrawals.

Vanover is a licensed real estate agent previously associated with various local agencies, but not currently employed. She previously served on the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, but was not reappointed in January when her term expired as the case was under investigation.

The subdivision, off Hardy McManus Road, has 491 homes, Gorta has said. The association is responsible for maintenance of a community pool and common areas including an activity field and greenspace park.

There’s nothing the homeowners association wasn’t able to do because of the missing money, Gorta said. The theft had a lesser effect because it was done over time.

“It hurts, don’t get me wrong,” Gorta said. “We’ll be fine. They (residents) just have to pay their dues.”

Vanover’s arrest is the second major Columbia County arrest in recent months for similar charges.

Charles Holtzclaw, 26, of Martinez, was charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in April for what investigators say was a scheme that stole more than $200,000 from his former employer, Howard Lumber Co. of Evans.

Holtzclaw currently is free on $25,000 bond. He is accused of brokering deals for building materials and keeping the payments, then covering the thefts by charging the materials to other accounts, Morris said.

Comments (18) Add comment
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Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 05/07/13 - 08:34 pm
8
1
Not a mugshot I notice.

Not a mugshot I notice as in the original story. It's a photo by Valerie Rowell it appears. I don't believe I've seen those arrested allowed to have other private photos published in the paper. I wonder what that's about?

Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 05/07/13 - 08:45 pm
6
0
Certain Thefts Are Worse

There are certain things we are trusted with and breaking that trust absolutely has a stench. Things like this have happened in the past in Columbia County with school funds and other abuses of trust positions of various kinds, but never to this magnitude or as planned with regular thefts. Don’t you think stealing because you occupy a position of trust would simply be something you would never consider? That’s what bothers me and I hope the judicial system, too.

716
Points
Barry Paschal 05/07/13 - 09:04 pm
5
0
Photo

I'm wondering why they're using that photo, too. And it's a file shot -Val didn't take it. Must've had a system glitch.

Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 05/07/13 - 09:55 pm
6
0
Return Mugshot to Story

I don't know how these things work, but doesn't it have Val's name under it? Did she submit that photo to be published or did someone at the Chronicle submit it using her name? Shouldn't the glamour shot photo be removed and the mugshot returned to the story? Also, the original story said she was out on a $40,400 bond. Was her bond changed?

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 05/07/13 - 10:31 pm
9
0
I wonder if Association President Mr. Gorta ...
Unpublished

is going to use that as his campaign slogan when running for a subsequent term ... “We’ll be fine. They (residents) just have to pay their dues.” How utterly ... Stratford.

jmo
15937
Points
jmo 05/07/13 - 11:03 pm
5
0
Why wasn't she......

charged under the RICO Act as was Holtzclaw? This was as much of an ongoing enterprise.

jbartley
545
Points
jbartley 05/08/13 - 04:47 am
4
2
Party Girl

If she had a sick child or family member and need the money for their medical bills I could feel sorry for her, but she took this money to travel and party!

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 07:57 am
1
0
HOA are a scam!!!
Unpublished

“It hurts, don’t get me wrong,” Gorta said. “We’ll be fine. They (residents) just have to pay their dues.”

Home Owners Association is an acronym for realtor/developer advertisement slush fund. You can't sell upscale homes in a ghetto. The "image" you know. Dollars you know.

Who votes in these HOA? Who decides when and where grass is planted and mowed? Pansies dead headed? Not the homeowners.

Some abide by the covenants, while others do as they please. "Oh, our HOA attorney will bring charges, and we will collect $25 a day until the issue is resolved. It all depends on "who you know".

Rule were meant to be broken and never more so that in an HOA.

It should be called HUSH, not HOA. Help Us (developer/realtors) Sell Homes.

Adios' covenants when the last tenth acre lot is sold. Adios' when the last parcel next to the entrance become a filling station, strip mall or Section 8 apartments.

Most homeowners do not live in a community long enough to see the "evolution" of the "planned cluster community". They don't get to choose the components of the cluster. They do not get a vote on the "zoning changes".

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 08:03 am
0
0
Mrs. Vanover is the poster child
Unpublished

for the argument that poverty breeds crime. The poster child for lack of education breeds crime. The poster child for money equals class. Never was, never will be.

She had financial problems. She needed money. She simply took other peoples money that they were not using. We do not send people to jail for these errors in judgement. No harm, no foul.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 08:31 am
0
0
The new photo is from her
Unpublished

real estate business card. LOL LOL

According to CC online records research. there was a lawsuit/bankruptcy claim against their property.

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 08:41 am
3
0
Mug Shot

I am opposed to newspapers’ publishing of mug shots except for the purpose of alerting the public to suspects on the loose, so the public can help police hone in on the whereabouts of a suspect or an escapee.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 08:45 am
0
0
CCNT is screening post regarding information
Unpublished

that is open to the public. Who would have thunk it????

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 08:45 am
3
0
Different Story

If you want to see the original posting with the original photo and the original comments, click below:

Earlier Story

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 08:51 am
0
0
Mug shots are to somehow be a deterrent
Unpublished

to crime. Public humiliation? Won't do that again. 2013 society has no shame and public humiliation is the name of the game in the our instant photo uploads to the world. And couple that with some getting to pick and choose the photo they want printed.

Deterrent, as in, the once automatic death penalty for killing a police officer.

tombee
35
Points
tombee 05/08/13 - 08:53 am
5
0
It took them 4 years to

It took them 4 years to realize a quarter million was missing because they didnt need it. Do you think just maybe dues are a little excessive?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/08/13 - 09:04 am
4
0
Don't think there is any

Don't think there is any regulation or rule that a photo is required or that a particular photo is required. If management decides they want to post a photo of Mother Teresa on this article, it is their prerogative. Further, even if the ACH posts 99.9% mug shots and decides not to for one defendant, still nothing but a judgement on their part. The response is what it is.

Red Headed Step Child
4042
Points
Red Headed Step Child 05/08/13 - 09:22 am
3
0
Curious why there was no audit process in place...

ANY time you are dealing with an organization, there needs to be a formal audit process in place. Surely that would have caught any issues WELL before it got to this level. Trust but verify is my motto....

Little Lamb
45869
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/13 - 09:51 am
4
0
Audit

Someone called for an audit of our homeowners’ association books, and three accounting firms quoted prices twice as high as our entire treasury. Of course, we're not as hoity toity as Stratford.

resident
489
Points
resident 05/08/13 - 09:55 am
3
0
Dues

Well guess this just proves a point that these HOA groups are basically a group of my friend and I don't like or do it my way or it is wrong arrogant people. Just pay their dues...WOW! I am glad I do not have one. We are 100% volunteer taking care of our neighborhood and donate time an money as necessary. Guess what our home prices never fluctuated during this recession because they were not falsely inflated because of HOA mandates on design, flowers, grass, etc..while it may seem like a good idea look how many are now upside down because of over-inflation and mandated prices by HOAs. What do you really get from your dues? Seems pretty ugly but looks like not much. I bet they do not buy foreclosures or keep one from being foreclosed. Check out Westlake or Stevens Creek. Ias you can tell my opinion of an HOA is not good when it comes to dues. Especially when they can have over a quarter million in an account.

Riverman1
83701
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 10:14 am
5
0
David Parker

David Parker speaks the truth that the paper can post any photo they want. Barry Paschal said the new photo was a mistake so I assume it could be changed back. I dunno. As David said, it is what it is in all things involved with this case.

Oh, you know how the mugshots are posted for the paper's version of its jail report? I doubt hers will end up staying on the frontpage online for a week or so... if it even appears there for one day.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 05/08/13 - 10:28 am
0
0
Gorta says we just got to move on.
Unpublished

Home owners have to pay the dues and we will move on. Don't pay your dues and we will place a lien on your house and then you can move on.

Your neighbor who works for a lawyer/contractor can build a lean-to on the side of his house, but you had better pay those dues.

Mrs. Vanover did the internal audits for the HOA.

Red Headed Step Child
4042
Points
Red Headed Step Child 05/08/13 - 11:18 am
1
0
Audits

Usually there are more than two people serving on a board - even if you don't go with an outside CPA firm, there can be some sort of internal controls that wouldn't cost anything - it can be a function of the board members. Simply have two people who don't have anything to do with the "books" go over it - account for all the deposits going in, and all the expenses going out on a quarterly basis - just like balancing your personal check book. Unless all the board members are in cahoots, it should work fine. We did this on a PTA board I served on, and it worked fine. We had to present a recap of the audit to the school which reinforced the accountability.

Dixieman
14942
Points
Dixieman 05/08/13 - 11:26 am
5
0
DIXIEMAN NEEDS 267,663.08 MORE POINTS

Must be a very well-to-do neighborhood to have that much in the kitty. Time for her to get a second job so she can pay it back.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/08/13 - 02:25 pm
1
0
Reminds me of how we came to

Reminds me of how we came to live in Shenandoah. There wasn't an HOA but the community design back in mid-70's indicated this neighborhood would include a community pool and tennis courts and clubhouse. The lots were sold and the percentage toward building said pool, courts, house were never allocated for that or anything else. Just kept by the sellers/developers. Doesn't seem appropriate to charge the one lady and let the developers build their empire with ill-gotten gains. Just mentioning the discrepancy. Both should be equally prosecuted for a crime.

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