Investigators are looking at more than 30 condominium and townhouse associations across the Twin Cities to determine the extent of alleged theft by a recently fired executive at a South St. Paul property management firm.

Residents of a property in Falcon Heights learned last week that the ousted employee of Durand & Associates was alleged to have embezzled “a large amount of money.” The man hasn’t been charged and the Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects until charges are brought.

But the president of an additional homeowners’ group, Al Luttman of the Northdale Commons Townoffice Park Association Inc. in Coon Rapids, said it is also missing money and has filed a report with the police.

In an e-mail, a Coon Rapids detective told Luttman that “this case is actually much larger than we were aware” and that the entire investigation consisted of “about 40 other cases involving the same type of situation.”

The suspect was reported missing by his wife for about a week at the start of this month. Police investigated his disappearance until his wife reported on June 7 that she had made contact with him.

Luttman said his association was one of the first to discover the possible theft and report it to St. Paul-based Anchor Bank, which was used by Durand & Associates in its work with many condo groups.

Northdale Commons is missing more than $50,000 after Durand & Associates opened a secondary account at Anchor Bank in the association’s name without its knowledge. Funds from the association’s original Anchor Bank account and two accounts the association held at U.S. Bank were subsequently transferred into the secondary account, then to a Durand & Associates account before they disappeared, Luttman said.

At issue is whether the property firm had the association’s permission to move funds without the association’s direction. Luttman said the Northdale Commons association let Durand know in multiple verbal and e-mail correspondence that the company should not hire or pay for any services without the board’s advance written permission.

“They are playing a game,” said Luttman, who says he has repeatedly contacted different Anchor Bank representatives to find out why the bank didn’t catch the money transfers and how to access their remaining funds.

Anchor Bank representatives have said Durand and the association had signed a management agreement that allowed Durand to open, draw upon and make deposits in the association’s name with the use of funds not being the bank’s responsibility.

“We’re working with the authorities to get them all the information that they need to pursue their investigation and we’re being very proactive,” said Jim Collins, director of commercial and private banking for Anchor Bank. “This is a tough situation. It’s a terrible situation for the homeowners.”

Anchor Bank has sent out letters to about 30 different homeowner associations that had similar contracts with Durand to inform them on how to get financial statements and change account signers.

South St. Paul Police Chief William Messerich declined to give details after previously saying the investigation is active.

“I think that’s amazing how many [associations] that are involved,” Luttman said.

 

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet