Ex-treasurer charged with $267,000 theft

$267,000 taken from homeowners group

 

The former treasurer of an Evans neighborhood association has been charged with stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from the organization.

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.

 

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