Condo, Strata and HOA News

Condo Using an Individual Accountant Who Stole $800k+

UPDATE 18 Aug 2011; William W. Scott was found guilty on multiple charges, and stealing more than $800k.

Being on the board of a medium (50+ units) or large condominium (100, 200, 500+ units) will often have you managing more money than you are used to. A 200 unit condominium can easily have a million dollar yearly budget, and reserve funds from the hundred thousand to millions.

At the end of the day, the board is responsible for not only the good use of those funds, but the safekeeping of those funds.

People are people, and even friends can be untrustworthy and unreliable. So goes the story of William W. Scott of Bishopville South Carolina. In a 09 February recording with local police officers he outlined a series of imprudent financial actions with condominium accounts he had access to. In total, it is alleged that more than $800,000 was taken from these accounts.

When dealing with money, one of the best actions a board can take is to bring in reputable third parties that have a focus with condominiums. To this extent, I always suggest a management firm, and a deposit service unrelated to the management firm.

The deposit service (and pick one specializing in Condominiums) will be able to offer advice on how to manage the condominiums funds within any legislative requirements you may have. The management company will act as one more trained set of eyes that can quickly spot abnormalities that may occur in the investments. Between these two additional checksums – a professionally recognized deposit service and a good management firm, you lessen dramatically chances of illegal loss of funds.

One response to “Condo Using an Individual Accountant Who Stole $800k+

  1. Chris Jaglowitz (@chrisjaglowitz) 17 August, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Good piece, Stephen. Thanks for raising this.

    Another important tool in combating fraud is vigilant directors who are regularly watching for problems. Additionally, having solid financial controls in place is key. The corporation’s auditor can often make suggestions here.

    I’ve said elsewhere that I (as a condo lawyer) am often astonished at how few questions get posed to the auditor each year if (s)he attends the AGM to report to owners. This is the time when owners have the chance to ask what controls are in place and if the auditor is satisfied that things are done in a sensible way. I’m even more astonished that some condos don’t even arrange for their auditor to attend the AGM each year. To my mind, the absence of the auditor is a red flag, although many condos (especially small ones) don’t wish to pay the cost of the auditor’s appearance.

    Keep up the good work.

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