ST. GEORGE —A Washington County woman accused of stealing more than $232,000 from the Lava Bluff Home Owners Association in Hurricane pleaded guilty to two federal charges, including wire fraud and filing a false tax return.
2022 file photo of roads that need to be repaved in Lava Bluff Mobile Home Park, where former treasurer of HOA is accused of taking more than $249,000 from account since 2015, Hurricane, Utah, June 27, 2022 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News
The defendant, 66-year-old Sharon Lee Ann Gordon, of Hurricane, appeared in U.S. District Court in St. George on Thursday and pleaded guilty to two federal charges — wire fraud and making a false statement on a tax return — charges that were filed on Sept. 21 in federal court.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Dent, while Gordon was represented by Defense Attorney Heidi Groussman.
According to the complaint, the defendant served as the treasurer of the HOA of the Lava Bluff Mobile Home Park on North 3880 West in Hurricane, which gave her access to the association’s bank accounts as she was responsible for managing funds and keeping financial records. Lava Bluff is a 55 and older community consisting of approximately 180 units, a majority of which are manufactured homes.
Federal prosecutors also allege that the scheme ran from as far back as 2016 and continued through March of last year when the theft was discovered.
St. George News reported on the alleged theft in July of 2022, after receiving a series of messages from a reader, who said the money was taken by Gordon.
Gordon was confronted by the board in February. After reportedly admitting to the theft, she was relieved of her duties as treasurer. The following month, the incident was reported to the Hurricane Police Department, but the investigation stalled when detectives were told the situation was being handled “in-house,” Hurricane Police Officer Dan Raddatz told St. George News at the time.
The case was picked up by federal investigators based on Gordon’s use of interstate wire transfers into her bank account to make a series of purchases by means of interstate commerce, in addition to underreported income in her income tax filings. The case was filed in U.S. District Court.
According to the complaint, the defendant diverted money from the HOA account, comprised of fees paid by members, into her own account to be used for her own personal benefit, the complaint states.
In other words, the defendant was writing checks to herself and her boyfriend, as well as forging other board members’ signatures on the checks, which were then deposited directly into her personal accounts. She also wrote checks from the association’s account to casinos and withdrew cash from those same accounts.
Over the course of six years, Gordon diverted at least $232,00 from four HOA accounts held at three different banks that held HOA savings funds, an account earmarked for future street repairs funds, as well as accounts used for general operating expenses.
2022 file photo of HOA dues that were purportedly earmarked to repave roads in Lava Bluff Mobile Home Park, where former treasurer of HOA is accused of taking more than $249,000 from account since 2015, Hurricane, Utah, June 27, 2022 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News
It was the money that was drained from the account earmarked for new road paving that prompted the messages and emails sent to St. George News.
The federal tax charge was filed after IRS investigators determined that Gordon had failed to list the funds she embezzled on her tax returns. In 2021, for example, the defendant listed her income as $13,500 on her tax return, knowing that “she received an additional amount totaling at least $20,000 from her scheme,” investigators said.
According to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendant has paid back more than $168,600 to date. She was ordered to pay the remaining balance of nearly $64,000, along with more than $20,400 to the IRS in tax losses from her unreported income.
The case was filed following a joint investigation by the FBI field office in Salt Lake City, along with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George.
A sentencing hearing is to be scheduled in the case at a later date and will take place in U.S. District Court in St. George.
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