News 12 at 6 O'clock / Friday, February 21, 2014
EVANS, Ga. (WRDW) -- This sign's used to keep the bad out, but little did Stratford neighbors know, it had already gotten in.
It was disguised as this woman, Laurie Vanover, who stole 267,000 bucks from her own neighbors.
"I couldn't believe that something like this could happen," said Lisa Elmore, who lives in Stratford Homes Subdivision.
She, like the rest of the neighborhood, trusted Vanover. But all that trust vanished, right along with a quarter of a million dollars.
"Mostly, I think the residents want the money back," she said.
And they'll get it. Aside from the jail time and probation, Vanover was also ordered to pay back more than 250,000 dollars plus a 10,000 dollar fine.
"When this happened, I think residents realized that they hadn't been as involved as they could've been," said Elmore.
Things have changed. A new board has been elected and new rules have been written.
"I think you have to be very careful about who you put in those positions," she said. "Make sure there are a lot of checks and balances."
HOA President Bob Clymer says, "We'll now require two signatures on every check, opening mail will require two board members present, and ATM cards are no longer allowed."
That's how Vanover got most of the money, with a neighborhood debit card.
"Another thing our neighborhood considered was going into a professional homeowners management company," said Elmore.
It would cost homeowners more but would allow money to be handled outside.
"Instead of having to put all of this on residents who have jobs and a regular life outside of the homeowners association," she said.
The whole ordeal's been a learning lesson for all and with the bad, always comes the good.
"I think there's more of a sense of community in the neighborhood now," said Elmore.
The strongest weapon against any kind of crime.