HOA Is Easier Target

guest blog by Nila Ridings

Here’s a an auditor from Pima County, Arizona who apparently opted to steal from the HOA rather than the taxpayers. Joshua Bonillas was the HOA bookkeeper for Presidio Villas 2. His day job as county auditor paid him $60,000 per year. He admits to stealing $45,000 from his neighbors via the HOA bank account by forging the treasurer’s signature on the checks.

I have a few questions for him. He’s claiming he stole the money because of his ill children. Did he not have health insurance for him and his family through his county job? If so, how did he end up needing $45,000 to pay medical bills? Why didn’t he put that money on a credit card? Or take a second mortgage on his house? Or set up a GoFundMe account? And why didn’t he steal from the taxpayers instead of his neighbors?

Here’s my opinion of why he chose the HOA for his piggy bank. I’m one who believes if a person will steal one thing they will steal anything. In this case, I don’t think he thought he’d ever get caught stealing from the HOA. As a county auditor, he knew if he stole from the county funds his risks for getting caught and going to jail were much greater. So, he opted to steal where his could play the “my kids were sick” card on his neighbors so as to pull their sympathetic heartstrings and appease them with an “I’m sorry” and walk away with a promise to repay the HOA. Repay when, Mr. Bonillas? In this lifetime or your next? We all know HOAs rarely recover anything when a thief steals the cash. It’s always chalked up to the “we should have known better” or “it was our fault” for not having two signatures required on the checks. In this case, he was not only stealing the money he was forging the signature. I just wonder if the $45,000 was the total he stole or if there’s more to the story?

Bottom line: Joshua Bonillas should be going to jail. April 11th he will be sentenced but his neighbors are already willing to forgive and forget what happened.

What about the homeowners who can’t afford their medical treatment because they are paying HOA dues? Or cannot afford the orthodontics for their children because they are paying dues for some thief to steal? Or the maintenance that was not done thus depreciating their property values? What about all of those real life situations? Will those be taken into consideration at the sentencing? I doubt it.

People make a conscious effort to forge signatures and steal money. No matter what their excuse for doing so, it doesn’t happen accidentally or unintentionally. Homeowners need to stop accepting these lame apologies and push for the highest level of punishment by law. Only when thieves know they will be given significant time behind bars will this HOA theft insanity stop!

Most of our readers recall my HOA has $10,000,000 unaccounted for. The guy who ran the HOA like it was his own business for twenty years dropped dead shortly after I hired an attorney. You should have heard the neighbors telling me how he was such a nice guy to have “volunteered” to be the president for all those years. And how he was so good at the job and just took care of every little thing. (Nobody noticed the houses were rotting to the ground and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills were not paid in addition to the ten million dollars going missing.) Nobody cared that he had just purchased two places in Carlsbad, California and was running for the BOD of that HOA. Did I ever share with you that his successor had the American flag lowered to half-staff the day he died? Yes, she did. I’m convinced she thought as the new HOA president she had been given the power of authority that the Governor and President of the United States have! All that respect, concern, and sympathy for him. But let a homeowner not pay three months of dues, watch what happens then. No sympathy regardless of their reason for not paying. They will call out the CAI attorney, charge 18% interest, add on the legal fees, and go absolutely nuts to destroy that homeowner!

I do not understand the logic that seems to prevail in the minds of HOA homeowners. A simple apology from a thief seems to suffice. A few late payments from a homeowner sends them off the deep end. Could somebody please explain this to me? I just do not get it.

(link to conviction of HOA bookkeeper for stealing money from neighbors)

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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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