CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) - More than two and a half years after Team 10 first reported about a North County property management company accused of stealing money from clients, the victims are finally getting their money back.
Kelley Zaun owned Carousel Properties, a Carlsbad property management company. Victims first told Team 10 in 2016, they hired her to pay fees associated with their rentals. They said she did not pay those fees. She was accused of taking roughly $200,000 from victims, according to investigators.
In 2018, Zaun faced 29 felonies for embezzlement, according to Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn. Zaun entered into a plea deal and agreed to a year in custody. With the help of the DA’s office, Zaun’s former clients were able to get their money back through the Department of Real Estate’s Consumer Recovery Account.
Stephen Lerner, the Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs for the department, said so far, 23 victims have been reimbursed through the account. Other victims’ payments are still processing. They have been able to reimburse $172,084.68 thus far.
The Consumer Recover Account is an option for fraud victims when trying to recoup money from the person who took it from them. In order to utilize the fund, Lerner said there must be a criminal or civil court order for the defendant to pay back money he or she took. If victims cannot get refunded from the person who stole it, they can apply through the Department of Real Estate (DRE).
Winn said she volunteered to be the victims’ liaison with the DRE, as the process for reimbursement is lengthy and many of the victims were elderly. One of Zaun’s victims told Team 10 he is “extremely grateful” for the DA’s office work on this case.
Victims started receiving reimbursements within the past couple of weeks.
Money for the account comes from license fees. Lerner told Team 10 there are approximately 421,000 people with a license under their department, which includes broker and salesperson’s licenses. 12 percent of the license fee paid goes to the account.
Since 1964, the DRE has paid more than $61 million to victims. Approximately 54 percent of all applications are approved.
District Attorney Summer Stephan told Team 10 in a statement:
“In addition to a conviction and holding this defendant accountable, we also wanted to do our best to make the victims financially whole. Working closely with the Department of Real Estate, we were able to get a significant amount of money returned to victims and it’s gratifying to see the funds collected through real estate license fees used as intended— to un-do the financial damage done by the defendant in this case.”