Politics

HUD Official Pleads Guilty To Stealing $843,000 In Taxpayer Funds

Former Housing and Urban Development loan specialist Brian Thompson pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing $843,000 of taxpayer money in a wire fraud scheme.

Thompson was responsible for selling properties acquired by the government after borrowers defaulted on their HUD-guaranteed mortgages. Specialists like Thompson were tasked with ensuring the sale of these properties at the best possible price to reimburse the government for taxpayer funds made to mortgage lenders for insured loans. Instead, he funneled portions of the proceeds into bank accounts he controlled, netting himself $843,000 in the process.

Thompson scheme went undetected for nearly a year. To conceal his fraud, he fabricated settlement documents with false sales prices and even buyer names.

“Brian Thompson exploited his government job to rob the American taxpayer of more than $800,000,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen. “This crooked HUD employee diverted the proceeds of real estate sales from the U.S. Treasury to his own pockets through lies and trickery. He now faces serious prison time as a result of criminal breach of the public trust.” (RELATED: HUD Report Finds Nearly $700 Million Katrina Rebuilding Funding Missing)

By serious prison time, Machen means between 33 and 41 months in prison, which Thompson got through a plea agreement. The maximum sentence for his crime — technically wire fraud — is 20 years. He also has to pay back all the money to the federal government, and, according to the Department of Justice release, “is subject to a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $645,700.” (RELATED: Audit Exposes Millions Of Unaccounted For FEMA Spending)

Thompson worked for HUD’s Office of Loan Guarantee for Native American programs, which helps Native Americans get access to home mortgage financing. “Because of the unique status of Indian lands being held in Trust, Native American homeownership has historically been an underserved market. Working with an expanding network of private sector and tribal partners, the [Indian Home Loan Guarantee] Program endeavors to increase access to capital for Native Americans and provide private funding opportunities for tribal housing agencies,” its website explains.

“When we learn of HUD employees who engage in fraud, and in this instance elect to enrich themselves at the expense of a HUD program designed to ensure that Native Americans are provided the American dream of home ownership, we vigorously investigate these allegations in order to bring the employees to justice and remove them from current and future employment with HUD and the Federal Government,” said Special Agent Cary Rubenstein.

Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7, 2015.

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