01 May 2012

Housing Employees Charged with Fraud

Story first appeared in The Detroit Free Press.
In a new public corruption case unfolding in federal court, two Detroit Housing Commission employees were charged Monday with stealing government vouchers designed to help needy families pay for affordable housing.

The government ended up paying roughly $25,000 to help pay the rent for one of the defendants and her brother, records show.

Charged in the case are two DHC employees, housing specialists who worked with the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which helps low-income families obtain government-subsidized vouchers.

An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court said the two ran a scheme in which they lied on forms to help a brother, qualify for a two-bedroom voucher valued at $10,081. The government also paid nearly $15,000 to subsidize one woman's rent, the affidavit said.

To qualify for a voucher, prospective participants must be selected from a waiting list and are invited to attend a mandatory eligibility meeting. The brother was never on such a waiting list, the affidavit said, but received a letter notifying him about a meeting.

He never signed in for the meeting, the affidavit said. And one of the employees prepared documents to support his application and ultimately signed the voucher that allowed him to receive housing, the affidavit said.

It said that the employee also approved a voucher for a man who has a child with the other defendant and used a different name on the voucher.

An electronic paper trail and witness interviews helped uncover a scheme that led to the two women, the affidavit said.

The women have not yet been arrested.

A U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman was not available for comment Monday.

If convicted, the women face up to 10 years in prison, according to Cincinnati Criminal Lawyers familiar with the case.

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