Crooks Abound In HUD Housing Authorities

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Employees at all but two of the 26 small housing authorities a federal watchdog reviewed are wasting or stealing millions of dollars in taxpayer money, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General report.

Two dozen housing authorities violated federal requirements by operating with weak financial controls, failing to document their work, or messing up tenant rent between January 2012 and December 2014. Workers at three authorities in Louisiana, Idaho and Arkansas were recently convicted for stealing federal housing funds meant for low-income families and individuals.

“As a result, the 26 reports and memorandums reviewed identified questioned costs and funds to be put to better use of more than $18 million,” the inspector general said.

The executive director of Louisiana-based Church Point Housing Authority altered board meetings to reflect a $7,500 board-approved raise for herself, and forged signatures on checks and cashed them for personal use.

She was convicted of theft of government funds, and sentenced to five years’ probation. The court ordered her to repay almost $200,000 to HUD. Another employee who helped her was sentenced to five years’ probation.

A former administrative assistant of Idaho’s Coeur d’ Alene Tribal Housing Authority and her boyfriend created $4,175 in fake money orders and used the money for personal use. The administrative assistant was sentenced to seven months in jail and three years’ supervised release, as was her boyfriend.

The former executive director of Arkansas’ Star City Housing Authority was sentenced to 12 months behind bars for embezzling more than $100,000 in funds. Her ex-husband, who helped her, was sentenced to six months in prison.

The inspector general report did not include names of convicted former employees.

Five small housing authorities failed to enforce rent collection, allowing delinquent tenants to continue living there without consequences.

Taxpayers provide $6.2 billion a year for 3,058 housing authorities across the country. HUD considers three in four of those authorities small or very small, meaning they have no more than 249 units.

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