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FOX 13 Investigates: HOA Treasurer confesses to embezzling more than $150K thanks to persistent homeowner

Posted at 9:46 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 09:04:15-04

HURRICANE, Utah — After years of questioning and independent research from a persistent homeowner, the former treasurer of the Lava Bluff HOA in Hurricane confessed to embezzling more than $150,000.

According to a forensic audit conducted by a CPA firm, they believe she transferred even more than that — nearly $250,000 — into her personal accounts and gambling accounts.

Homeowner Tim Mullicane said he had been noticing discrepancies with the HOA’s financial reports since 2018, but nobody would answer his questions or listen to his concerns.

“I was just kind of told I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Mullicane said. “It was obvious to me, but a lot of people got lost in the numbers and figured everything was just fine.”

Mullicane never stopped documenting his frustrations. He continued poring through every publicly available spreadsheet, trying to make sense of the numbers.

At first, he said he never accused anyone of wrongdoing. He just wanted an explanation.

“There should be a whole bunch of money laying around somewhere, and there just wasn’t,” Mullicane said. “You know, I’m not a whiz or anything – but if you look at it... things weren’t adding up right.”

After years of bringing up his concerns at HOA meetings, eventually Mullicane noticed some of the checks he used to pay for HOA dues were being cashed more than 50 miles away next to casinos in Mesquite, Nevada.

Mullicane said when he brought up his concerns to the HOA treasurer, she stopped attending meetings in February 2022.

It has caused him to think differently about the amount of power HOA boards have over its residents.

“(My wife and I) had heard stories about bad HOAs in the past,” Mullicane said. “We came here because it was a 55+ community... Fell in love with it, and we decided to move here.”

Brian Fast, a retired accountant, has since taken over as HOA treasurer.

“This has been happening for almost eight years,” Fast said. “She had a gambling addiction.”

“How do you know that?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

“She confessed,” Fast responded. “Since then, I haven’t seen her. I have not seen her since.”

HOA President Gary Marsik confirmed the confession.

FOX 13 News spoke to the former treasurer on the phone. She declined to comment and hung up.

One of Fast’s first actions as new treasurer was to place a lien on the former treasurer’s house, which is now for sale.

He said she admitted to stealing approximately $159,000, but he wasn’t particularly confident the number she gave was accurate. That’s why he ordered the forensic audit.

“(She) inappropriately transferred funds to herself by making bank transfers to her personal bank account by writing checks to herself for personal benefit, and by executing ACH transfers to casinos into her gambling accounts,” the audit reads. “The estimated total resulting from these actions is $248,269.”

HOA dues are typically only $60 per month.

“At first, I was bewildered. Then I was sad. I was really sad for her,” said homeowner Pegi Brown. “I trust everybody until they give me a reason not to, and then I find myself not trusting anybody.”

Steve Solyom, who used to serve on the HOA board with the former treasurer, said he was surprised and disappointed.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that she would do something like this,” Solyom said. “I think there should be some prosecution.”

The Hurricane Police Department sent FOX 13 News a copy of its police report, which shows they stopped investigating because the HOA president chose not to press charges at the time.

Some homeowners tried to replace members of the HOA board for failing to act sooner and holding private meetings away from the homeowners.

“Why aren’t they being transparent?” Mullicane asked. “Why aren’t they in front of this mess?”

The president and vice president have since stepped down, and the new HOA president has given police the green light to continue investigating.

Hurricane PD confirmed it has reopened the investigation.

“It sounded really fishy to me,” said homeowner Ken Alderman. “She not only took the money from the HOA fund, but she stole from every one of us seniors here.”

The community is staying ahead of its bills for now, but the HOA does not have enough money for important projects like fixing roads.

“All the money in the savings account is gone. All the money in the reserve account is gone,” Mullicane said. “There’s a water main break in the street up the road, and if we don’t have money laying around for stuff like that, we don’t get that stuff fixed.”

Homeowners now say their advice is to always review the HOA’s financial statements as a team, to check with your bank to see where checks are being cashed, and continue to be persistent until you get answers.

“Did she do wrong? Absolutely,” Fast said. “Should she be punished for that? Absolutely. Will she go to jail? That’s not for me to decide.”

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