Everyone needs a roof over their heads. But times are tough and making the monthly rent payment is hard for some families. That’s where Section 8 public housing assistance comes in. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides federal funding to local Public Housing Authorities (PHA) that in turn offer subsidies, allowing eligible Section 8 program participants to have affordable housing. PHAs determine eligibility for the program based on a number of factors and at two critical points: the intake process and re-certification. According to The Picayune Item, one woman’s fraud caught up with her during the re-certification process.
Authorities argued that in 2006, the Picayune, Louisiana-woman lied about her income on her application for recertification for the public housing subsidy, saying that it was unchanged from the previous year. In fact, her income had changed – and she wasn’t even living in the subsidized apartment. Instead, she was renting it out while she lived in another state in “HUD-funded housing as part of Hurricane Katrina disaster assistance.” (Got to love the double dipping.)
The woman pleaded guilty to the counts and is moving into the Big House. She was sentenced to nine months in prison, plus three years of post release supervision. And she’s been ordered to pay restitution: $18,028 to HUD for renting out her apartment to others from 2006 to 2007; $2,638 to FEMA for the disaster assistance fraud; and $100 in fees. (Let’s not forget all the court costs.)
She blazed a trail of fraud totaling over $20,000 before she was caught. The good news here is that the process worked: her fraud was uncovered during re-certification. The question is: how much fraud can someone commit before they are caught in a yearly review?