Waterville Valley condo owners say $2 million could be missing from funds
More than 300 owners met over the weekend at the Waterville Valley Conference Center to discuss the level of their collective losses and how to work together while federal authorities probe who is responsible for the apparent losses. There have been no arrests.
The FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Department of Labor and the IRS are all looking into the missing funds, which were first reported in mid-October by a resident of the Windsor Hill condominiums and then handled by the Waterville Valley Police. Jim Boffetti, senior assistant attorney general in charge of the Consumer Protection Bureau, said he is aware that property owners have contacted his office and the criminal bureau at the Department of Justice.
"It is being handled by multiple agencies," he said. A search warrant obtained at the District Court in Plymouth and executed at the management offices Oct. 20 and 21 remains sealed.
Stone Property Management's website lists William Stone as the president. An attorney for Stone told the media his client is cooperating with the investigation.
Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo declined to comment on the matter. The next grand jury will sit Nov. 19 in Grafton, but that does not mean the case will be handled in that jurisdiction if there are charges coming.
Stone Property Management worked for 27 of the town's 35 condo associations. It plowed roads, cut grass and managed finances from 2002 to the present.
Residents said they believe the losses have been accumulating since 2008, when an accountant left Stone Property, but do not go back to that person's tenure.
A phone call to the offices at 35 Tecumseh Road went to an answering machine Thursday and there was no reply. Concord attorney Peter McGrath also did not return a call for comment.
Those who attended the meeting said that representatives of each association stood up and announced the money missing from reserve funds and that it totaled up to more than $1.6 million.
However, nine condo associations were not present. That works out to a loss of roughly $3,000 per property owner, they were told. Most of the owners have these as their second or third home.
Chris Sununu, president of the Waterville Valley Co., which operates the ski area, town square and nordic center, said Stone Property Management did not work for the resort. He said he is getting weekly updates from Town Manager Mark Descoteau.
"After meeting with the association groups impacted, I am optimistic that the associations will pull together a good plan for these properties going forward," he said.
Stone had about 15 employees who are now laid off, Sununu said. He said contractors are offering services to the associations, and there should be no problems getting sidewalks shoveled this winter.
Most of the money missing appears to have been in accounts for future use for such things as replacing roofs. and windows and other maintenance expenditures of the association.
Matt Hesser, general manager of the Black Bear Lodge, which has 107 condo units all owned by private individuals, said the association had Stone Management for landscaping and plowing but not for management of financial affairs. Before the investigation, he said, he had decided to go with another vendor for plowing for the winter and had planned to retain Stone for landscaping, but was left without help when the company closed its closed their doors on or about Oct. 20.
Employees of the lodge handled those season-end duties themselves, he said.
"There's been quite an impact," he said.
"Businesses are reaching towards each other," and making it into "a learning experience. In my short time here (since August) I have found that people make the best of what they can and keep moving forward," Hesser said.
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Paula Tracy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.