The president of a Twin Cities property asset and management company fired a senior executive amid a criminal investigation into allegations that he stole from at least one of the firm’s many clients, an independent condominium complex where retired University of Minnesota faculty and staff live.
Residents of 1666 Coffman in Falcon Heights were informed in an e-mail Thursday that the ousted executive for Durand & Associates management company in South St. Paul embezzled “a large amount of money and “has disappeared.”
A suburban police department told the Star Tribune that the executive's wife reported that he hadn't been seen since May 31 and she believed it had to do with his trouble at work.
Police investigated his disappearance until his wife reported on June 7 that she had made contact with him and they no longer needed to look for him.
Sandra Durand of Durand & Associates said that a meeting Wednesday with condo owners “went very well.” She declined to say more. Property manager Donna Scott said Durand & Associates has directed her not to comment.
South St. Paul Police Chief Bill Messerich acknowledged there is an “active and open investigation” but otherwise declined to comment out of concern for jeopardizing his department’s efforts in this case.
The executive has not been charged. The Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects who have not been charged.
The impact of the suspected embezzlement, Scott wrote in an e-mail, means halting large capital projects such as water mitigation and concrete work on the south lawn of the property of more than 90 units on 6.5 acres leased from the U.
While neither Scott nor Durand would say how much money is involved, the condo association’s financial statement from December 2016 lists “current assets” of nearly $1.1 million. That statement was prepared with data provided by the executive under investigation.
Also, a source close to the investigations told the Star Tribune that the amount missing is in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
No one connected with the investigation has said whether the executive is suspected of embezzling from other Durand & Associates clients.
Scott’s letter on behalf of a board member to 1666 Coffman residents mentioned a “discovery phase” of an investigation by Durand that involves 34 properties.
On June 1, the executive's wife told police in the south metro suburb where they lived that her husband hadn't been home for more than 24 hours, having said then he was driving to a rehab meeting. She also called his office and was told he did not show up for work that day.
A missing person's file opened by police and obtained Thursday evening by the Star Tribune said the executive's phone had been turned off.
A week into the executive's disappearance, according to police, the wife hired an attorney in connection with her husband's disappearance.
The attorney told police that the wife "was concerned about the incident that [her husband] was involved with at his work and that she had been advised to hire an attorney."
The attorney added that the wife believes the executive "is missing in relation to his work troubles," the missing person's case file continued.
On June 7, more than a week since the executive left home and dropped out of sight, the wife called police and said she was in contact with her husband and he should no longer be considered missing. Police closed the case at that point.
Coffman estimates that it is fully insured up to the maximum amount that is potentially at risk, said Victoria Tirrel, a resident who is acting as a spokeswoman for the condo association.
Durand’s letter to the condo association revealed that her company noticed financial discrepancies last week. She said her firm is carrying out its own investigation along with the South St. Paul Police Department.
She also informed the condo owners that the executive under investigation has been fired.
“First and foremost, I need to assure you we are researching every available path for recovery of funds,” including what insurance claims are possible, Durand said in her letter to the association running the independent-living housing complex, which is located on Larpenteur Avenue and reserved for former U faculty and staff ages 55 and older.
“My company has served associations such as yours for more than 45 years, with, I have been told on many occasions, an outstanding commitment to the needs of the associations,” her letter continued. “Durand & Associates has never had an issue such as this in our entire history.
“I am both shocked and extremely distressed to report this situation to you. We will continue working, both internally and externally, to obtain a full and complete understanding of these events.”
The executive under investigation has been with Durand & Associates since the late 1990s. He has a degree in finance and volunteers on budget planning committees for various charities in the St. Paul area, according to his company biography.
Along with various forms of housing, including the Cliff House Apartments in Burnsville, the firm also has experience with managing commercial, medical office and retail ventures.
In 2012, the firm on an interim basis ran the small community of Landfall, a 304-site mobile home park, after the City Council fired its city manager without the approval of the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482