Friday, August 02, 2013

FBI calls 2001 HOA scheme precursor to the big one

"It had the makings of a lucrative construction defect scheme. A California law firm, an architect and a construction company were conspiring to pack the homeowners association board at the Starfire condominium complex in southwest Las Vegas with straw buyers to win contracts to pursue construction defect litigation and eventual repair work. Phony defect claims were devised, and HOA board members were bribed with cash and prostitutes to steer business to the conspirators. A little-known investigation into the scheme was conducted by the Nevada attorney general’s office in 2001, but no charges were ever filed. The investigation, however, is considered the forerunner to Operation GrandMaster, the six-year Justice Department probe into a similar takeover of 11 homeowners associations across the valley, according to the FBI. And it may be what triggered the involvement of the late construction defect lawyer Nancy Quon in the valleywide takeover scheme, which occurred between 2003 and 2009." [emphasis added]
Another big story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal on the huge Las Vegas HOA takeover scheme. The US Department of Justice calls their investigation Operation Grandmaster. Apparently a defense attorney in this case is asking why a 2001 investigation by the Nevada Attorney General's office into an apparent HOA takeover plot never went anywhere and they decided not to prosecute, even though (the attorney says) the Starfire situation was similar to what ended up happening between 2003 and 2009 in eleven HOAs, and that became the DOJ's current Operation Grandmaster prosecution.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Plan For Belle Isle Utopia Revived After Bankruptcy Filing « CBS Detroit

Plan For Belle Isle Utopia Revived After Bankruptcy Filing « CBS Detroit
"DETROIT (WWJ) - Should Belle Isle be sold for $1 billion to a developer so he can turn it into a tax-free “commonwealth” — with its own laws? The outlandish idea, initially proposed early this year, is gaining some interest now that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. That’s according to Rod Lockwood, who wants to turn the island into a private city-state with a focus on free market capitalism and limited government.
Another utopian libertarian. That's why I call it privatopia.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Couple in nasty battle with South Natomas homeowners association - Real Estate - The Sacramento Bee

Couple in nasty battle with South Natomas homeowners association - Real Estate - The Sacramento Bee
"The Campbells say the dispute began when they raised questions about the association's finances and complained about a lack of handicapped access to the neighborhood swimming pool. In return, they say, they were threatened with fines, disciplined, and denied homeowner privileges. The dispute has escalated to the point that the Campbells say they have gone to the FBI with allegations about the association's finances, while the association's lawyers have told the Campbells they don't even own their home."
I was interviewed for this story and had this to say:

"Despite the prevalence of HOAs, there is no government entity that regularly oversees how they operate, McKenzie said. There are many devoted board members and many conscientious association lawyers, he said. But when things turn sour, associations and their lawyers wield outsized power, while homeowners have little recourse. Litigation is often the homeowners' only option, but few have the funds to hire lawyers, McKenzie said. He likened it to a criminal justice system with prosecutors but no defense lawyers. "Because they only represent one side, they become extremely adversarial," McKenzie said of HOA attorneys. "They are pro-association and anti-owner. They want total obedience. The owners are the enemy. They see them as troublemakers."

A City Invokes Seizure Laws to Save Homes -

A City Invokes Seizure Laws to Save Homes -
Given that the federal government won't do anything meaningful to help underwater home owners, one city is doing something:

"Richmond is offering to buy both current and delinquent loans. To defend against the charge that irresponsible homeowners who used their homes as A.T.M.’s are being helped at the expense of investors, the first pool of 626 loans does not include any homes with large second mortgages, said Steven M. Gluckstern, the chairman of Mortgage Resolution Partners. The city is offering to buy the loans at what it considers the fair market value. In a hypothetical example, a home mortgaged for $400,000 is now worth $200,000. The city plans to buy the loan for $160,000, or about 80 percent of the value of the home, a discount that factors in the risk of default. Then, the city would write down the debt to $190,000 and allow the homeowner to refinance at the new amount, probably through a government program. The $30,000 difference goes to the city, the investors who put up the money to buy the loan, closing costs and M.R.P. The homeowner would go from owing twice what the home is worth to having $10,000 in equity."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Neighbors vs. Pine Village North HOA: New allegations arise in legal battle |

Neighbors vs. Pine Village North HOA: New allegations arise in legal battle | HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Residents in Pine Village North in northeast Houston are at odds with their homeowners association again.

They took the board to court and reached a deal. Now, they say the deal is a no-go.

Dilapidated buildings, burnt out homes, a community pool with no water -- some residents say their subdivision is falling apart, and they've had enough.
Texas-sized trouble in Privatopia in the Lone Star State. Film at 10 on KTRK-TV Houston.