News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, May 7, 2013
EVANS, Ga. (WRDW) -- Money is tight these days for Erica Passey.
"We're just careful about where every penny goes," she said.
Five months ago, she found out exactly where her pennies went.
"We're always thinking about OK, hopefully they're using this money properly and hopefully it will be improving our neighborhood," Passey said.
But investigators say Laurie Vanover was slowly spending more than $250,000 during a four-year period from the Stratford homeowners association's bank account. Vanover was the treasurer.
"I think we all felt a little betrayed at some level," Passey said.
And that's the feeling along the streets here, with neighbor after neighbor telling News 12 they are mad and disappointed.
"You assume that when you're paying your homeowners association dues, that the board is taking care of the money and putting it where it needs to be," Passey said.
Columbia County Investigator Tom Digsby has been on the case since neighbors noticed the money was missing.
He says Vanover was the only one in charge of finances and that led her on a personal spending spree.
"She was just using the association's bank account as though it were her own," Digsby said.
He tells us she was paying off her personal credit cards and even making everyday ATM withdrawals, totaling more than $122,000.
"She was on her own, which is what made it possible, the fact that she didn't have anyone looking over her shoulder," he said.
Passey says she blames herself and others for not paying attention but says it's a lesson the entire neighborhood had to learn the hard way.
"Any good association is gonna have multiple people that will pass off every purchase so something like this can't happen again," Passey said.