Cactus Springs HOA fees go up after president accused of looting funds
Homeowners who live in HOA's rely on their boards to be honest and competent in managing their communities and their money. But the latest inductee into Contact 13's HOA Hall of Shame seemed to forget all that. As Chief Investigator Darcy Spears repoPhoto: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Homeowners who live in homeowner associations rely on their boards to be honest and competent in managing their communities and their money. But the latest inductee into Contact 13's HOA Hall of Shame seemed to forget all that. As Chief Investigator Darcy Spears reports, they're accused of looting funds and leaving homeowners holding the bag.
The home of the Cactus Springs HOA President is hardly presidential. From plastic tubs full of cigarette butts to cat food littered all around to pumpkins that have long overstayed their Halloween welcome. The people who live there have a lot more to worry about than some HOA no no's.
"We need to talk to you about what you've done with homeowner's money," inquired Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
They wouldn't show their faces, but we can tell you their names. Board President Thomas Hays, his domestic partner and former board member Michael Stevens, and HOA manager DeAna Belcastro all live in a house on Wooly Rose Avenue.
The streets could be paved with money for all that's come out of the HOA accounts, but instead, it's allegedly gone to line the president's pockets.
Hays and Stevens are accused in a lawsuit of looting HOA funds to the tune of more than $300,000. Belcastro and her employer, The Masters Association Management, are accused of helping them do it and covering it up. People at the management company hid behind closed doors too.
"What are you hiding, " Chief Investigator Darcy Spears as she asked through the door.
They say their attorney told them not to talk. So what don't they want to talk about?
"Our HOA is going bankrupt soon because of the situation right now," board member Rain Liu.
"Actually, we're already bankrupt," said Linda Laine.
Board members Rain Liu and Linda Laine, who is Cactus Springs' treasurer, filed the lawsuit in January after realizing their HOA's accounts were essentially empty. They say they'd been kept in the dark until they hired a lawyer and demanded records.
Financial records show the HOA was paying about $400 a month for gas for a gold cart. That's $100 a week on golf cart gas? It's something that other board members say never even moved. They believe Hays was using this as an excuse to pay for his own personal gasoline.
The golf carts are part of the community's unlicensed, internal security force, which the lawsuit says ate up $44,000 a month of homeowner's money from June to December 2012. As the new board majority, Rain and Linda fired them and hired a licensed, outside company which is now costing the HOA just $12,000 a month.
"What do you think the homeowners of Cactus Springs are gonna think when they hear all this," asked Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
"They will be extremely angry. And they will want to find justice. And we all want our money back," said Rain.
"That's what investigations are all about. That's why you're here," explained homeowner Darrell Dimbat.
He calls it an abuse of power. In addition to the gasoline, Rain and Linda also question unexplained petty cash reimbursements.
"We see reimbursement of petty cash for Thomas Hays, nearly $1,000 - $2,000 per month," said Rain.
The lawsuit also says the money the HOA collected for fines and violations is simply gone as is about $14,000 that some homeowners pre-paid for their annual assessments. As a result of all this, the HOA has had to raise homeowner dues from $110 to $125 per month. Plus, each of the 284 homes will have to pay more than $1,000 extra dollars just so the HOA can stay afloat.
"It is shameful," said Darrell.
"For something you had nothing to do with," said Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
"Right. Exactly. So Hall of Shame here we come," said Darrell.
The Board President and his domestic partner are in danger of losing their home to the Clark County Treasurer because County records show they haven't paid property taxes since 2009. We'll be following the lawsuit closely and sending our story to lawmakers in hopes that they'll take a closer look at how Nevada HOA's are run.
The attorney for the Masters Association Management Company released the following statement:
“The Masters Association Mgt Co. is promptly procuring and providing all necessary documents and information to properly respond to the allegations contained in the Lawsuit. Considering the matter is presently in litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. The Masters is aggressively insuring that the association is properly managed and the homeowner interests are being protected.”
- Edward Boyack