A Lantana couple that had been arrested for defrauding their homeowners association were recently found guilty and hit with a severe jail sentence and restitution order. The judge in the case found William and Darlene Cox, the former president and treasurer of Lantana Homes HOA (respectively), guilty of embezzling from the association that they helped to lead.
William Cox was sentenced to three years in state prison, while Darlene Cox was placed on probation for five years, the first of which must be served with a monitor. They were also ordered to pay more than $360,000 in restitution to the HOA.
According to a report by CBS 12 News in West Palm Beach, the current leaders of the HOA are frustrated because Darlene Cox is still living in the community. She remains a neighbor amongst all of those she defrauded and robbed.
Darlene and her husband were arrested in November 2016 after the current board discovered financial discrepancies in the association’s accounts. According to the arrest report, the two were accused of taking the HOA funds and using the money to pay their personal car insurance as well as their homeowners and life insurance premiums.
After the change in the laws governing condominium associations and HOAs last year focusing on antifraud measures and avoiding conflicts of interest among board members, Florida law enforcement has been issued a mandate to take cases of association fraud extremely seriously and give them the resources they deserve.
Cases such as this illustrate the importance for associations to use effective precautions and safeguards in order to help ensure that they do not become a victim. These include monthly reviews of all bank and credit card statements by at least two people, ideally including both a board member and management staff. There should also be an annual audit by experienced and reputable accountants to provide a careful review and independent certification of the validity of all financial records.
Together with the proper safeguards and vigilance in order to help prevent theft, fraud and abuse by association and management employees, the criminal penalties prescribed by the state’s new condo fraud law have now made associations better equipped to engage law enforcement than ever before.
Click here to read the complete news report in the station’s website.