HOUSTON — Property owners in Acres Homes came face-to-face with the man who they claim has been ripping them off for more than a decade.
In April, KHOU 11 Investigates uncovered hundreds of people were paying an elusive man who collected dues for an HOA that did not exist.
Now one woman is suing to get her money back. A judge ruled on her case last week.
Delores Lane is just one of those homeowners demanding a refund from Tejas Capital Management, the company that had been managing the subdivision’s finances. They said the owner, Ronald Cochran, took their money and never provided any services.
KHOU 11 went to the business address listed for Tejas Capital Management and to Cochran’s home several times over the past year to get his side of the story. Those attempts were unsuccessful.
It wasn’t until Cochran appeared in court that investigative reporter Cheryl Mercedes was able to ask him questions about the allegations.
She found him outside the courthouse and asked: “Mr. Cochran, there are residents who say they are owed thousands of dollars because you were running a homeowners association which did not exist, and collected their money. Is that correct?”
“No comment," Cochran’s said.
Cochran also refused to comment about financial records, his company, his court summons or anything else.
Lane said she filed a lawsuit against him to warn other homeowners who might still be sending dues to his company.
“Somebody needs to bring it to the attention of everyone in the subdivision that they are paying money to a ghost because nobody knows him,” Lane said.
Lane said it was first time she has seen Cochran since she purchased her property in Inwood Forest Village in 1996. She is suing him for $2,800 -- the amount she said she paid Tejas Capital Management while the neighborhood swimming pool was in disrepair, trash piled up along the streets and overgrown grass buried the appearance of her subdivision.
“If I pay my bills, I want service. If someone is getting my money illegally then I want them taken care of,” Lane said.
Several homeowners told KHOU 11 Investigates that they noticed a change in their neighborhood approximately 10 years ago. According to Texas Secretary of State records, it was around the same time the status of the HOA was involuntarily dissolved in 2007.
The homeowners spent the better part of this year fighting to take back their neighborhood. With the help of an attorney, they have created a new board of directors and hired a new management team.
Lane took Cochran to court hoping to get her money back.
“It's the right thing to do,” Lane said.
But justice didn't come fast for Lane. The judge dismissed the case on a technicality. He ruled that since Lane made her HOA checks payable to Tejas Capital Management, she needs to name the company in the lawsuit, not Cochran.
“It seems like he's gotten off free again, walked away from doing the right thing, walked away from his responsibilities,” Lane said.
Lane's fight is far from over. She said she plans to refile the lawsuit.
Cochran told the judge he should keep the payments because he filed the proper paperwork for his company this year after it was delinquent for 12 years. He had few reasons for the lack of work, only pointing to his health in court. He said he had a stroke earlier this year and that he was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.
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