The former treasurer of a Kansas City homeowners association who admitted to stealing more than $100,000 from her HOA has received two years’ probation, an action that angered many residents who sought a more severe punishment.
Loretta A. Lock pleaded guilty in Clay County Circuit Court in August to embezzling from the Charleston Harbor Homes Association. At a hearing last week, Clay County Circuit Judge Shane T. Alexander suspended the imposition of her sentence and placed her on probation.
The judge ordered Lock to pay $109,000 in restitution to the HOA, complete counseling and treatment for a gambling addiction and perform 100 hours of community service. He also prohibited her from serving as treasurer or in any other financial capacity for any organization.
Lock, a real estate agent, was treasurer of the Charleston Harbor HOA for eight years. According to a grand jury indictment in January, Lock stole money from the HOA between February 2013 and July 2015.
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Lock, 78, was charged with a felony but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after the Missouri Supreme Court issued a ruling in another case that effectively classified the crime as a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence she could have received was one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
“Nobody likes it,” HOA president Chaz Wood said of the sentence. “There should have been some kind of shock time or jail time, even if just for a week. But our main goal was to recover the money, and we were fortunately able to do that.”
Lock had returned about $40,000 before she was indicted. She paid back the remaining $109,000 before leaving the courthouse last week.
Lock’s case was highlighted in August in a series published in The Kansas City Star that explored the explosive growth of homeowners associations. HOAs wield far more power than homeowners realize, and a lack of oversight over the industry can foster an environment ripe for embezzlement, The Star reported.
More than a dozen Charleston Harbor residents attended Lock’s sentencing hearing. Lock still lives in the neighborhood, which is at 71st Terrace and North Brighton Avenue in Kansas City, North, and comprises about 200 homes.
Wood told the judge that Lock’s neighbors “are furious at not only her criminal activities, but by her disrespect and her breach of trust.”
“Her neighbors feel that breaking even and just returning the stolen funds lets her off too easily,” he said.
Lock read a statement to the court, saying she had no excuses for her actions and was “deeply ashamed.”
Gambling was a social outlet, she said, and she first took the money when she couldn’t cover the checks she wrote to the casinos. She tried to put the money back but it was never enough, she said, and over time she lost track of how much she had actually taken. She said she’d been going to therapy since being charged to try to understand why she did what she did.
Wood told The Star the experience had been hard on everyone.
“This really ruined our trust,” he said. “We’re glad to put this thing to bed.”
The silver lining, he said, is that it has brought residents together.
“We have done a lot of work to regain the residents’ trust in the association and repair numerous amenities that have been neglected from lack of funds,” he said. “We’re seeing involvement from residents unheard of over the last seven to eight years, and there are a lot of good things going on in the neighborhood.
“We’ve seen the bad side of HOAs, but we’re seeing the upside now.”