We are all familiar with the challenges of the housing market. For those who struggle to make ends meet, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds a program – managed by local public housing authorities – known as “Section 8.” This program provides the rental assistance that many families need to ensure they have a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, sometimes we come across more fortunate individuals who take advantage of the system. And is that is the focus of today’s fraud.
The GateHouse News Service recently reported that a Weston, Mass. couple has been indicted for allegedly obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in Section 8 public housing subsidies, as well as defrauding mortgage lenders of more than $250,000. The requirements for Section 8 eligibility are based on a number of factors, such as income, family composition, criminal background and assets. Authorities allege that the two – individually and collectively “misrepresented” their status in a number of areas to receive the low rental rates on housing. (My interpretation: “misrepresented” = “lied.”) For example, authorities indicate that the wife falsely “reported that she was unmarried.” In addition, authorities allege that the wife made false claims about her income to qualify for the Section 8 program, and at the same time the couple claimed to earn at least $12,000 a month to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage loans – money they used to purchase properties in Somerville and Medford. (A mortgage lender to check income? That’s old school.)
Resulting from their alleged fraud, authorities claim that the couple received greatly reduced rental rates for a three bedroom house in Cambridge. Ironically, the couple did not even reside in the home; instead they rented it, opting to live in an $860,000 home they purchased in Weston. (Think they were renting it and declaring the income? I think not. Bonus points in the fraud game if they add in tax evasion.) The couple also allegedly made minimal mortgage payments on one property, while letting the others fall into foreclosure. (No way?!)
While the dream of owning multiple homes resides in the heads of many, this case serves as a cautionary tale for those who seek to fraud in order to live the dream: one house, two houses…please, no more – if you don’t want to sit behind a jail cell door.