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Former president of Clearwater condo association accused of fraud

CLEARWATER — A former president of a condominium association was arrested on fraud charges Friday after police said she swindled nearly $300,000 by trying to sell condos that were in foreclosure or off the market.

Barbara Lockett, 49, a licensed real estate broker, is charged with scheme to defraud.

Police say Lockett told Dunedin businesswoman Kelly Choi that 22 condos at the Mission Hills Condominiums were good investments and open for sale. Lockett said she would help Choi, 48, complete paperwork and deal with the banks and told Choi where she could wire her money.

"She suggested she would teach me how to be an investor," Choi said. "I trusted her completely."

As months passed, Choi began questioning why the owners were slow to respond. Lockett made excuses, blaming the slow economy, Choi said. That's when Choi contacted the owners, who told her they knew nothing of the deals, she said.

Half of the condos, property records showed, had outstanding mortgages or were in foreclosure. The other half were owned and not listed for sale.

Detectives say they learned later that Choi's payments were moving directly into Lockett's personal account. Choi said some of the money also went into Lockett's business, BODO Enterprises.

Lockett was arrested about 5 p.m. Friday and taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where her bail was assessed at $100,000. Police say there may be additional victims.

Mission Hills, a sprawling complex south of Coachman Road and east of U.S. 19, has more than 400 condos for residents 55 years old or older.

Lockett, who also went by the name Diane, was president of the Mission Hills association's board of directors, presiding over more than $2 million in association fees. Shortly after Choi's police report last year, the board asked her to resign.

"I don't want her to hurt another person," Choi said. "Each of those condos I was involved in, she deceived someone on the other end."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@sptimes.com.

Former president of Clearwater condo association accused of fraud 05/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 10:47pm]
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