Patrick Au

On 04 November 2013, the CBC reported that a Vancouver strata (condo) director was sentenced to to two years less a day imprisonment — to be served in the community — after bilking his fellow homeowners and neighbours out of more than $160,000.

In court Monday, Patrick Au was also given two years probation and
ordered to pay back the entire $160,000. He pleaded guilty to theft and fraud over $5,000.

Au was a volunteer director for Gardenia Villa, a 250-unit condo building near Broadway and Nanaimo Street in East Vancouver.

Patrick Au at courthouse

Over a four-year period, starting in 2001, Au slowly took control of the strata's finances and started siphoning off funds for his personal gain.

The condo, built in 1994, had serious water leaks from the beginning. Mr Au, a real estate agent, got elected to the condo's board by promising to use his contacts to get the repair work done quickly and cheaply.

The condo, twelve years later

Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Homeowners Association, says the case is a clear warning for those living in a strata (condo) building.

"We need strata corporations to really closely monitor invoices that are being submitted by council members (directors) for compensation, or by other parties for compensation,” says Gioventu.

“You need to verify that the companies exist, that it was a valid claim, that the expense is reimbursed in the appropriate way and deal with original receipts. Don't deal with photocopies or photocopies of photocopies of original receipts."

Gioventu says there are 27,000 stratas (condos) around the province, and while this type of fraud isn’t common, it is not without precedent.

He recommends that two strata members should handle the finances: one to authorize expenses, and the other to issue the cheques. Beyond that, he says, there needs to be constant vigilance.

"The most important thing is getting monthly reports,” says Gioventu. “Get a reconciled financial report where you can verify [expenses].”

Comment from CBC viewers
If you think that hiring a licensed strata manager would be a way to prevent
this kind of problem, think again. Even if caught and disciplined by the Real Estate Council such a manager would face an "administrative penalty" of as little as $1000.

I live in a 16 unit complex where the same strata council has been in control
for ten years. They are controlling and have refused me access to the financial records.

The majority of owner are over 80 and don't care and don't want repairs made as they refuse to pay. I have had major leaks which they just refused to repair, so after $3,000 legal fees I repaired it myself.

What help is the new legislation that does not provide owners with clout?
Maybe they should hire a property management company, but there to you have to keep an eye on them as some are pretty shady!

Been there dealt with that!

Eliza Wong
On TV news , CBC has twisted the story a bit. Patrick Au is one of the sole pre-selling agents for this development.

This condo was built in 1994 when it is still under condo act. But at the pre-sell show room, only sweet talk, deception, dirty tricks being presented to us.

Then when our sale was completed, leaks found everywhere, developer throw us a small cheque and disappeared after one year.

Lawyers at that time not knowledgeable enough about this kind of sale.

We went to three levels of government for help due to the leaks.

How can city engineering dept allow occupancy paper approval? Was told they hired a lawyer to sue city.

Asked builders why, they said they drew a tough contract and rushed the project . But after many yrs, govts depts changed, condo act changed to SPA Act.

Then lately owners found out Patrick Au has close relationship with a member of the legislative lawyer of SPA Act.

How our governments wanting real estate boom industries and how we were sacrificed as victims.

Most SPA lawyers refuse to take our cases, saying we only got four years to sue the government. etc etc.

During first 10 years, 1994-2005, Patrick disguised as owner, use his sweet promises of cheap maintenance ( SPA maintenance agent) compare to (BC Real estate board management members). Divided the owners. We didn't notice anything wrong, until lately when comparing the insurance documents.

Re: "A former member of a Vancouver strata council has been sentenced to two years less a day imprisonment — to be served in the community "

This sentence is not justice. This sends a message to others that this type of theft is not punishable. Our justice system is a joke.

How does this crime go unpunished? Community service? Wow, and they say crime doesn't pay! This guy should face serious jail time. For many reasons! One being to discourage others from doing the same.

I have estimated that Mr. Au has stolen more than $500,000 over the last 18 years and what is sad is that people at Gardenia Villa still believe he is innocent.

The current president, Jack Ng knowing that Mr. Au has been stealing money still gave him the position of building manager until last week.

In the condo where I used to live, if you complained about something,
the property manager would note it in the minutes every month and then
never fix it.

That meant you couldn't sell your unit if you complained about anything, and if the bank holding your mortgage found out you could be in a very serious situation.

Sometimes false things were written about condos owned by troublemakers, and the property manager would not remove the comments. The only option was the Supreme Court.

This is a form of blackmail and a way to punish people who want things fixed.

Because there is no proper oversight of condos in BC, they attract unscrupulous individuals who milk the system. As it stands, buying a condo invites another level of government into your life and they are unaccountable on many levels. It can be way worse than having a landlord!

Unfortunately most strata boards have little experience with construction or financial management. They are usually elected because they are "popular" with everyone and promise everything to everyone.

They have no clue what to do when something goes wrong and rely on the judgment of the strata management company who are usually equally incompetent.

The people who actually try and control the spending and have some construction of financial background usually get turfed out.... sad but true.

Why are people such fools with their trust? It is only common sense that cheques and bank withdrawals require two signatures. It is only common sense that deposits and withdrawals be reconciled by a third party.

It is because of a lack of common sense and basic vigilance on our part that the likes of Patrick Au can prey on us.

In all the years I dealt with fraud like this the most common comment from victims was "he/she seemed so nice.They seemed so honest".

No wonder he volunteered to be on the board!!

Our strata & council is controlled by one family (original developer) who has often secretly paid contractors then "approved" reimbursements to their company - isn't this fraud too?

Gets all excited whenever questioned about it - maybe time for an audit?
The Province needs to out more teeth into Strata Property Act
The other problem with the strata act is there is no one to address the problem if one arises. The costs of going to court are so far beyond the average condo owners grasp that even if you can prove your case you probably cannot afford to try it.

That leaves you with an AGM or an SGM and then the other major problem becomes obvious with owners who buy a condo but cannot be bothered to read the act.

Our corporation has a certifiable disaster going on and we are in the courts now. But it might bankrupt a few of us before it's solved. There needs to be an affordable way to address these issues outside of the courts. CHOA is great for information, but they don't have teeth to solve the problems.

Gotta love condo boards. Over achieving wannabe boy scouts finally grasping power after failing the psychological test to be a security guard and grasping the brass ring.

It's been over 14 years since I have had to deal with any condo board and my life couldn't be better. I'm so thankful I moved away from the trailer park mentality.

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