Five Crooks Down, Dozens More to Go

There’s no way to explain how significant the Homeowners Association corruption scandal in Las Vegas really is. It’s huge, of course, for Nevadans. More than any other state, HOA members there have seen their home values plummet, sometimes up to 80 percent.

In the Las Vegas disgrace, a fifth person, Angela Esparza, 24, has now pleaded guilty to helping rig HOA board elections with phony ballots and proxies. She’ll get off easy, though. It’s sad to see that she’ll get a light sentence, but at least she’ll be snitching on some of the other major suspects in this stenchy scandal.

Good old Las Vegas corruption. Judges, cops, attorneys, HOA board members and management companies. In fact, Esparza has told investigators she prepared some of her phony ballots in the office of a certain lawyer. Vegas residents, of course, all know who that lawyer most likely is.

Investigators and prosecutors from Washington DC had to be flown in to complete the investigation because there was too much suspicion of potential corruption in the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office.

How important is this federal investigation? The FBI and the U.S. Attorney have created an investigatory model that could be transported to just about any major city in America. The kind of corruption being discovered in Las Vegas is going on across the country. For reasons explained in my upcoming book, Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association, the problem is not that crooks intentionally try to get onto HOA boards. It’s that the whole HOA structure begs for crooks to come on board.

A massive number of homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure, not just foreclosure to the banks, but foreclosures carried out by corrupt Homeowners Association boards. In fact, HOA foreclosures are often done for incredibly minor violation of covenants. Bank foreclosures are overseen by thousands of pages of state and federal rules. Nothing oversees an HOA foreclosure.

Often, the “lucky stiff” who ends up buying the HOA house for pennies on the dollar, is a board member, attorney, or another “insider” who’s tipped off that a “super quick seizure and auction” is going to be taking place. That buyer is usually the only one at the auction. He quickly re-sells the house to make it impossible for the original owner to get it back. Any kickbacks? Ha! We’ll have to wait and see! The FBI expects to take down dozens of highly placed officials over the next few months. (Insider’s tip: A major player in this ring of Las Vegas swindlers has already left town to set up a similar scheme in another sunbelt state. Hmmm, could it be a lawyer?)

Homeowners Associations are de-facto governments. Yet they have far more power than most other governments. They don’t have to abide by such concepts as free speech, freedom of assembly, respect for religion. The Second Amendment is so much trash to some HOAs. Racism and discrimination are endemic. Unannounced inspections of the interior of private homes is going on in California and elsewhere. Discrimination against the handicapped exists everywhere.

Yes, there are good Homeowners Associations and many people are happy with their own. But the system, itself, is flawed. Every HOA is just one rigged vote, one faked proxy and one election away from putting into office the kinds of people who are stinking up the Las Vegas housing market.

God Bless the F.B.I.

Ward Lucas
Author of
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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About

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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