NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Real Estate Board revoked Alex Nova's real estate license in May. Since then, homeowners and realtors who worked with him say he disappeared with hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money.
According to a Virginia Real Estate Board investigation, on September 9, 2020, Virginia's Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation received a written complaint from a former salesperson for Remax Central Realty, the property management company owned by Nova.
The complaint alleged that Central Realty's rental proceeds from the month of August 2020 had been deposited in property owners' bank accounts, but that they were later reversed and taken out of the accounts.
It also said that Central Realty said the cause of the reversal was that its bank accounts had been compromised.
Shortly afterward, similar complaints were also filed from one other former salesperson and multiple property owner clients, the report said.
The investigation that followed found that "Central Realty property owner clients were paid monthly owner's proceeds," on August 11, 2020. But, the report said, those payments were reversed around August 20, 2020.
After the funds were taken out of their accounts, clients reached out to Nova for an explanation. The report said that's when Nova's office responded with several conflicting explanations. One of the reasons given for the reversal was that the company's bank account had been compromised according to the report.
"The situation was due to fraud, not an accounting error or financial issue: issues with the bank account had been resolved," the report said.
On March 31, 2021, at the VREB's request, Nova sent investigators a list of properties that his company was managing along with leases and property management agreements, according to the report.
After reviewing those documents, the report said investigators determined that Remax Central Realty's escrow liability (amount of money they need to have ready in their account to be paid back to clients for things like security deposits) was over $379,000.
The report said that as of May 10, 2021, there was $8,059.47 in Remax Central's PM Escrow Account 3614, leaving an approximate escrow shortage (or lack of money they should be ready to pay back to clients) of over $371,000.
The next day in an interview with investigators, Nova said that the issues with the payment reversal came from problems with their software provider, bank accounts, and a third-party payment processor, the report said.
Nova also said that PM Escrow Account 3614 held property management security deposits for the firm, and that only he and his office manager had access to the account, according to the report.
When investigators told Nova that there were insufficient funds in the account to cover his company's escrow liability, the report said he told them about a new account that he had set up through a lawyer.
The report said Nova told investigators that the new account was with East West Credit Union in Toronto, Canada, and that he did not have the account number and had been locked out of the account for a week.
According to the report, the EWCU account was funded with money from Remax Central's Towne Bank accounts. The report said the money went from their escrow account to their operating account and then directly into the EWCU escrow account.
Nova said there was $489,000 in the account at the time. He also said he set up an operating account with EWCU containing $141,000 at the time the other EWCU account was set up, according to the report.
Nova told investigators that he used "eastwestcu.com" to access his company's EWCU account, the report said. That site is not an active web address.
When investigators looked at Central Realty's bank account statements from May 15, 2020, to August 17, 2020 (just before the payment reversals), the report said they found that over $800,000 had been transferred among Central Realty's escrow, commissions, and operating accounts into their operating account; $300,000 of which came from their escrow account, the report showed.
During that same time period, over $789,000 was transferred from the company's operating account to three overseas companies in China, the report said.
"Nova's actions of taking and transferring at least $354,000 in security deposit escrow funds into the firm operating account, which resulted in such funds being electronically transferred to overseas companies, constitutes improper, fraudulent or dishonest conduct," the report said.
Nova has paid back some of the money in question since the investigation, according to the report. But, the report clarified that at least some of the security deposits returned were related to property management situations not originally included when Nova sent in documents to investigators for review.
The report also noted that Nova failed to account for several properties' security deposits that came into Central Realty's possession and belonged to others.
The only known penalties currently faced by Nova are fines, but Virginia online court documents show that multiple civil lawsuits pursuing debts have been filed against Nova in the Virginia Beach General District Court since June 1.
The report showed four fines, totaling $5,100, for violating four different rules. The report explains that the rules Nova violated deal with fraudulent actions, mismanagement of escrow funds, and parameters for agents supplying information to the VREB.
The Norfolk FBI would neither confirm nor deny whether there is an active case involving Nova.
In an interview with 13News Now, Courtney Zawisa said she used to work with Nova, and that since having his license revoked in May, he has disappeared with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of security deposits. Some of that money is owed to 34 of her tenants, she said.
Zawisa also said Nova owes her $38,000 in commission.
Latanya Morgan lives in New Jersey, but she explained in an email to 13News Now that her family owns a home in Portsmouth. She said that Remax Central Realty has been managing the property, which currently has tenants in it.
Morgan said that she has not received rent payments from Central Realty for the months of May and June 2022.
Apparently, Morgan is not alone. The company's Facebook page had mostly good reviews, but one post with over 66 comments is full of disgruntled customers who write that they are experiencing the same problem as Morgan and cannot get in touch with Nova.
The popular post was posted by Markeith Scott Sr. who lives in Florida but had a property in Chesapeake managed by Nova.
In an interview with 13News Now, Scott said that things started off okay with Nova, but after a year or two of working together, it became difficult to contact Nova.
Scott, an E-6 Operations Specialist for the Navy, said that he was so busy that he didn't have time to fire Nova and hire someone else. Scott would e-mail Nova, but he said he rarely got responses.
Scott claimed that poor communication was accompanied by late payments for a couple of years until rent payments stopped being forwarded to Scott completely in 2020.
From March 2020 until July 2021, Scott said he did not receive any regular rent payments from Nova even though there was a lease signed for that time period at his property.
Scott said he finally got some money in the form of a security deposit to get his house fixed up after he said Nova told him that it had been inspected and was vacant in June 2021.
Scott was thinking of selling his house and had a realtor go by to look at it later that month. The realtor let Scott know that there was definitely someone still living there, and Scott had to have the police kick the person out.
Now, Scott said Nova owes him over $25,000 worth of rent payments and for damage done to his property while managed by Remax Central Realty.
Nova could not be reached for comment before the publication of this article.