Author Archives: Beanie

FLORIDA – Villages couple appalled at classification of American flag as non-compliant “lawn ornament”

CCFJ.NET:  Villages couple appalled at classification of American flag as 

non-compliant  “lawn ornament”

Article Courtesy of The Villages News
By Meta Minton
Published October 13 , 2018


A Village of Hemingway couple is fighting to keep an American flag on display at their home.

Joseph and Margaret Ganci, of 1172 Jebber Loop, pleaded their case Thursday morning before the 

Community Development District 7 Board of Supervisors.

The couple moved to The Villages eight and a half years ago and found it to be “a wonderful place.”

Until Sept. 13, when they got the dreaded knock on the door, informing them their home was not in compliance.

An anonymous complaint was received Sept. 12 about three flags planted in the ground at the Gancis’ home.

They were a flower flag, a Blue Lives Matter flag and an American flag. There were also statues on display.

Two of the flags have been removed, the statues are down, but the American flag is still on display.

Technically, the flag – in this type of display – is classified as a “lawn ornament” in The Villages.

“How incredulous to call the American flag a ‘lawn ornament,’” said Margaret Ganci.

The American flag on display is changed every two months and a light shines on it at night, she said.

She also took a swipe at the anonymous complaint process.

“Who is ‘anonymous’ and where is that person hiding?” Ganci asked.  Read more:

ARIZONA – Phoenix man accused of $1.3 million theft from HOAs to take plea deal

AZCENTRAL.COM:  Phoenix man accused of $1.3 million theft from HOAs to take plea deal

Associated Press
Sept. 18, 2018

The former head of a Phoenix-area property management company accused of stealing nearly $1.3 million from homeowners associations has agreed to a plea deal to spare his wife prosecution.

According to court documents made available Monday, Harlow White has agreed to plead guilty to one felony charge of transactional money laundering.

He and his wife were indicted last year on other charges including conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Under the proposed agreement, the indictment against Nancy White would be dismissed. Other charges against Harlow White would also be dropped.  Read more:

CALIFORNIA – Elderly Seal Beach Woman Accused of Embezzling Over $100K

Patch.Com:  Elderly Seal Beach Woman Accused of Embezzling Over $100K
This 71-year-old Seal Beach woman was arrested Saturday on charges embezzling from her homeowners’ association
By Ashley Ludwig, Patch Staff
Sep. 24, 2018

SEAL BEACH, CA — A 71-year-old Seal Beach woman was accused of embezzling over $115,000 from the Costa Mesa homeowner’s association, of which she was treasurer, court documents said.

Bonnie Diane Harris, 71, of Seal Beach, served as the former treasurer for the Cedar Glen Homeowner’s Association, and was scheduled Monday to make her initial court appearance on charges of embezzling more than $115,000.

Harris was arrested Saturday on charges filed Sept. 12. She faces 36 felony counts of embezzlement by fiduciary of trust, with sentencing enhancement allegations of property damage exceeding $65,000.  Read more:


FLORIDA – Foreclosure lawyer Mark Stopa made nearly $5 million off clients’ homes  Foreclosure lawyer Mark Stopa made nearly $5 million off clients’ homes
Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times
By Susan Taylor Martin
Published October 2, 2018
During the foreclosure crisis, thousands of Floridians turned to Mark Stopa for help in saving their homes.

The 41-year-old St. Petersburg lawyer became one of the state’s best-known foreclosure defense experts, quoted in national publications and portraying himself as a bulwark against heartless and conniving lenders. 

But even as Stopa helped many people hold on to their homes, he acquired millions of dollars worth of property from other clients through what authorities say was a years-long pattern of fraud and deception. The alleged scheme to defraud clients and mortgage lenders has had a ripple effect throughout Florida, leaving thousands of foreclosure cases in limbo and Stopa’s former firm about to file for bankruptcy.

“It’s like the Titanic going down,” said Richard Mockler, a Tampa attorney who has tried unsuccessfully to salvage Stopa’s law practice.

On Aug. 21, agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement raided Stopa’s offices in downtown St. Petersburg. According to the search warrant, Stopa obtained title to distressed homes throughout Florida using shell corporations, many of them registered in New Mexico. The properties were then rented out while Stopa, under the guise of representing the original owners, continued to fight the foreclosure cases.

Agents subpoenaed Stopa’s PayPal account and discovered deposits from individuals at approximately 20 properties controlled by his companies.

Between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 1, 2018 records showed, Stopa received a total of more than $4.8 million.  Read more:


FLORIDA – $7.5M Verdict Against Condo Association Should Have Been Prevented

CCFJ.NET: $7.5M Verdict Against Condo Association Should Have Been Prevented

Article Courtesy of The Daily Business Review
By Michael L. Hyman

Published September 28, 2018

While recreational amenities such as pools and hot tubs significantly add to the appeal of condominium and homeowners association communities, they also come with major liability risks that must be mitigated by the use of effective safety and maintenance measures. The recent $7.5 million verdict for a St. Petersburg, Florida, condominium resident to compensate him for the injuries that he sustained in his community’s hot tub is a telling example of the potential ramifications that can result when any defects in the working condition of these amenities are not properly addressed.

In 2008, Ehab Mina was about to step into the hot tub at the Boca Ciega Resort & Marina Condominium when he became startled to see that it was partially drained. The problem in the hot tub caused the 44-year-old to slip, and he badly injured his right shoulder and spine.

Mina required multiple surgeries, and he was ultimately forced to sell his boat-building business as a result of his injuries. He filed suit against the association and its property management company, Condos by Sirata Inc., alleging that the hot tub should have had a posted warning and adequate lighting in the evening hours.

The attorneys for the condominium association responded by arguing that the half-empty hot tub was an obvious condition, but the jury found the association and its management company to be jointly liable. It awarded a $7.56 million verdict to Mina.

For the unit owners, this verdict could present significant financial repercussions, especially if the association and management company general liability insurance policies’ limits are insufficient to cover the entire amount of the verdict. In that event, the association will be compelled to pass a special assessment, and its insurance premiums are likely to rise, leading to a substantial financial burden for all of the owners.

The expensive lesson for the association in this case is an important one for all Florida community associations and their property managers. Associations must apply reasonable vigilance in maintaining and inspecting all community recreational amenities. An association’s obligations include regularly scheduled periodic inspections followed by performing all of the necessary maintenance and replacement procedures to ensure that all amenities and equipment are kept in safe working condition. In addition, user weight and size restrictions, or limitations on the hours during which amenities may be used, could also help to potentially limit legal liability should an injury occur. Read more:$Avoid.html

FLORIDA – Debts Pile Up in Poinciana Villages HOA

CCFJ.NET:  Debts Pile Up in Poinciana Villages HOA

Article Courtesy of The Ledger

By Mike Ferguson

Published September 22, 2018

POINCIANA — More than 10 percent of the homeowners who make up the Association of Poinciana Villages are delinquent with association dues and the homeowners say they’re not sure where to go from here.

The Association of Poinciana Villages (APV) is a homeowners’ association of about 27,000 homes that spans parts of Polk and Osceola counties. According to a spokeswoman for APV, more than 3,000 accounts are delinquent.

Residents have until Jan. 15 each year to pay at least the monthly amount of $23 or the annual amount of $276 — an increase of $24 from the previous year. If those are not paid, they’re sent to collections, which residents say creates enormous debts. Often, they’re unable to find who to pay.

Carlos Pastor said that his debt now stands at more than $3,500. Pastor said he was sent a letter by APV that his outstanding dues had been passed on to collections and was charged about $300 for the letter to be sent.

Pastor said he tried to pay the outstanding balance, but the HOA wouldn’t accept it. He claims to have tried to pay the collections company, McCabe Law Group, via mail, but it claimed to have never received the payment. Pastor said he had lived at his home since 2000 without ever being late until 2016.

“I just want to pay it,” Pastor said. “It’s crazy. I don’t mind living in an HOA but do something for me. I want to get this thing settled, but c’mon, be fair.”

Residents say the HOA used to give a 90-day grace period. Tabatha Bucci said her child had medical issues between January 2017 and last summer, which forced her to run back and forth between Nemours in Orlando and home.

In April of that year, she tried to pay the $63 and $5 for a late fee that she owed for the prior three months but was sent a letter obtained by The Ledger that showed the $68 deducted from $657 in assessments. In addition to the then-annual $252 fee, she was charged $375 in attorney’s fees to prepare a lien against the property and a debt verification letter among other charges. Read more:

FLORIDA – Private Beaches In Florida Spark Battle With Residents And County

CCFJ.NET:   Private Beaches In Florida Spark Battle With Residents And County
Article Courtesy of NPR
By Greg Allen
Published September 13, 2018
Santa Rosa Beach, in Florida’s Walton County, is a quiet place with sugar-white sand, a pleasant surf and signs warning visitors to stay out. The largely rural county on Florida’s Panhandle is at the center of a battle over one of the state’s most precious resources: its beaches. Most of the 26 miles of beaches are already privately owned. As of July 1, homeowners with beachfront property in Walton County can declare their beach private and off-limits to the public. The new law has sparked a standoff between wealthy homeowners and other local residents.
In Walton County and in Tallahassee, where Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law, an earlier version of the bill was known as the “Huckabee amendment.” Fox News commentator and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a beachfront house in Santa Rosa Beach. Since the bill went into effect, opponents of the law have speculated about Huckabee’s role in getting it passed.

In January emails to Kathleen Passidomo, the bill’s sponsor in Florida’s Senate, Huckabee thanked her for helping protect property rights from what he called ” ‘customary use’ abuse.”

“Having grown up dirt poor in Arkansas, I never thought I would see saltwater in person, much less live on a beach,” Huckabee writes. But he says he has been appalled at what he has found on his beach property. “I’ve found used condoms on my walk-down, glass bottles broken, dog feces, litter. Sharp tent poles that can cut bare feet and worse. Large tents with large groups with boom boxes make using my own property very difficult during high season.”  Read more:

CALIFORNIA – Assembly approves Wieckowski bill to rein in HOA election abuses

SD10.SENATE.CA.GOV: Assembly approves Wieckowski bill to rein in HOA election abuses
Senator Bob Wieckowski
August 28, 2018

SACRAMENTO – The state Assembly today approved a bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to rein in election abuses in California’s more than 55,000 homeowner associations (HOA).  Senate Bill 1265 now heads back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before being sent to Governor Brown.

“Today’s Assembly approval sends a clear signal that the Legislature recognizes not only the critical role HOA boards play, but the impact they have on millions of Californians’ homes and pocketbooks,” said Sen. Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Housing and Transportation Committee. “By adding safeguards to the system, SB 1265 will restore fairness and integrity to the board election process and end abuses in communities where boardmembers are more interested in maintaining power than faithfully following the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions.”  Read more:

NATIONAL – Inside the scandal that could explode multifamily real estate

HOUSINGWIRE.COM: Inside the scandal that could explode multifamily real estate
By Ben Lane
August 17, 2018
Everything is going swimmingly in multifamily real estate these days, right? Rents keep rising, construction is still chugging along, deals are being made, and delinquencies are still at historic lows. So everything’s good, right? Maybe not.
It appears there could be a deep, dark secret at the core of multifamily lending that could destroy the market. And in a truly sad bit of irony, the secret could be very similar to the one that crushed the single-family housing market 10 years ago.

Fake residents, fake incomes, and inflated mortgages. Sound familiar?

The details of all of this come courtesy of a blockbuster report released this week by the Wall Street Journal.

The report details how the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency are in the middle of an investigation that the WSJ calls “one of the biggest mortgage-fraud probes since the financial crisis.”

The whole WSJ article is definitely worth reading (if you have a subscription, that is), as the article extensively details some pretty brazen fraud allegations involving the loans backing approximately $1.5 billion in mortgage securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

According to the article, the investigation has already led to an indictment against four individuals for allegedly conspiring to falsify loan information in order to obtain more than $167 million in multifamily loans.

The indictments, which were disclosed earlier this summer, allege that Frank Giacobbe, Patrick Ogiony, Kevin Morgan, and Todd Morgan conspired to defraud Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Arbor Commercial Mortgage, and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage by faking much of the information that the lenders and government-sponsored enterprises count on when issuing or buying the mortgages.  Read more:

MARYLAND – Inside one Maryland community, a fight to save backyard basketball hoops

The Washington Post:  Inside one Maryland community, a fight to save backyard basketball hoops
By Jacob Bogage, Staff writer
August 22, 2018
When the violation notice from the neighborhood homeowners’ association first arrived in Sam Sheth’s mailbox, he thought it was a joke. He thought someone had gotten hold of letterhead and made up some sort of phony new rule about the basketball hoop outside his single-family home, one he has used in the same neighborhood for nearly a decade.

When the second notice came, which identified the hoop as “portable play equipment,” he thought it was a mistake. And when the third notice came, this time threatening a fine, he laughed and threw it away.

Residents in Howard County’s Maple Lawn subdivision, a planned community built in 2005 near Routes 29 and 32, are fighting to save basketball hoops that have adorned driveways, back alleys and front yards for years but have recently become a source of tension.  Read more: