Helping others can be a rewarding process both for the individual(s) in need, and those who step up to help.  Of course, the point of the good deed is lost if both commit public housing fraud in the process, and that’s the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from The New York Times.

The article reports that an influential religious leader within the Brooklyn area and his brother recently pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with a federal housing fraud scheme.  The religious leader, known for throwing a lavish “jailhouse bar mitzvah” for an inmate’s son, may soon be facing a welcome party of his own in jail.

Party planning is not the man’s only talent; teamed with his brother, the duo managed to swindle around $220,000 in Section 8 program subsidies over the course of 15 years.  The Department of Investigation claims the scandal ranks as the largest individual case of housing fraud investigated.  (Go big, or go home…)

The price to pay for public housing fraud runs fairly high – arrest, persecution and conviction often lead to time in federal prison and a requirement of restitution.

So, what happened?  Investigators unraveled the scheme, telling the court that in mid-1990’s the religious leader’s brother was approved for federal subsidies, allowing himself, his wife and two children to reside in a Brooklyn duplex apartment.  Completing the process, the brother filled out paper work stating his annual income and signing a confirmation that he and his family resided in the home (so far, so good).  In fact, that was not the case.  (Uh Oh)  The brother and his family lived elsewhere, allowing the religious leader to reside in the subsidized housing.  (This is where public records and data analytics technology could easily help find people that are playing the system, and put an end to this theft.)

Wait…there’s more.  The housing subsidies were paid to the apartment’s owner, who was an employee of the same organization where the religious leader worked and had previously served as executive director.

Ultimately, the religious leader pleaded guilty to falsely signing documents; his brother pleaded guilty to a theft charge.  The two face sentencing in January 2013.

Some people go to the end of the world to help others – others, go to jail.

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