Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 1:52 am | Fair 53º


Local News

Search Warrants Served in Effort to Find Lompoc Housing Agency’s Financial Documents

DA steps in to assist county audit of now-defunct Lompoc Housing & Community Development Corporation

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has served several search warrants in an attempt to track down financial documents from the long-troubled Lompoc Housing & Community Development Corporation. The effort is part of the forensic audit being conducted by the County Auditor-Controller’s Office.

The county agencies are investigating allegations of embezzlement of government loans and grants by LHCDC, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott.

“The county can’t do an adequate audit without getting proper documentation, and it couldn’t get all the information that was required to do a full audit until we served the search warrants,” she said.

Early this year, the LHCDC dissolved without notice, resulting in last-minute closures of homeless shelters in the Lompoc area. In February, seven of the LHCDC’s affordable-housing properties were in bank receivership and only two — with private lenders — were not in foreclosure. Several of the properties have since been sold.

Government agencies had given millions of dollars in funding to the organization, so the county Board of Supervisors ordered Auditor-Controller Bob Geis’ office to audit the LHCDC and track county funding to ensure it was spent appropriately and legally. The audit is expected to take about a year.

Geis, whose office is doing the initial review of the financial documents, has said the LHCDC had not produced any financial statements since 2006.

Depending on what the audit uncovers, the District Attorney’s Office could pursue criminal charges, authorities have said.

“We believe there’s enough information that we have currently to justify getting the search warrants, and a judge agreed,” Scott said. “We won’t know until the thorough financial analysis is complete if there is a crime.”

The LHCDC has a long history of noncompliance and warning letters, and a county Grand Jury report in June called out the county and Lompoc’s Redevelopment Agency for failing to properly monitor the millions of dollars of loans given to the organization.

“If attention had been paid and LHCDC had been forced to better manage its affairs in a timely fashion, low-income renters in Lompoc would have been much better served, and taxpayers would have been saved millions,” the Grand Jury report concluded.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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