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Woodbury HOAs impacted by alleged embezzlement case

A senior executive at Durand & Associates, a property-management firm in South St. Paul, was recently fired after being accused of taking client money.

Members of Woodbury's Eagle Valley Homeowners Association, Wedgewood Association and Woodbury Crossing received notices telling them an employee had allegedly embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars by funneling money into newly opened bank accounts.

According to residents, an estimated $100,000 and $400,000 had respectively gone missing from Wedgewood and Woodbury Crossing's accounts used for funding community events and day-to-day operations.

In a June 28 letter, Durand & Associates Principal Sandra Durand told Eagle Valley residents that their association had also fallen victim to an embezzlement scheme.

"To say that we are shocked and heart-broken over such an unbelievable breach of trust is an understatement," she wrote.

The letter also asked for an emergency contribution of $210 to continue the association's activities through the end of the year.

Several similar instances have occurred across the Twin Cities.

Arden Hills North Home Association, an association of about 140 townhouse units, received similar emails from Durand & Associates notifying them that one of its employees "embezzled reserve and operating account funds from our Association and many others." The Arden Hills association was a client of Durand & Associates.

The homeowner association estimates it lost several hundred thousand dollars, according to Scott Andresen, an attorney who represents the group. He said he does not know whether its insurance coverage will fully cover the loss. Durand & Associates' insurance might also help cover losses.

The association has begun speaking with prospective property managers to replace Durand & Associates but has not made a final decision.

South St. Paul Police Chief Bill Messerich confirmed that they have an active investigation involving Durand & Associates. He declined to comment further, saying he didn't want to jeopardize the investigation.

Durand also declined to comment.

The employee, whom authorities have not named, has not been seen for several days. The amount of money missing could add up to millions of dollars, Andresen says Durand & Associates told him.

Arden Hills North Home Association is one of 34 properties that may be involved. Another is 1666 Coffman, Falcon Heights condominiums for retired University of Minnesota faculty and staff.

"We're still so early in the investigation of trying to know exactly how much may be missing and we also know that we are well-insured, so there isn't any impact that can be foreseen right at this time," said Victoria Tirrel, a resident and appointed spokeswoman for 1666 Coffman.

Durrand & Associates also provided its services for the Marsh Creek and Powers Lake associations in Woodbury.

Youssef Rddad Contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media Partner.

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