Have you ever run into a landlord that doesn’t seem to be telling you the truth? Whether the ceiling is leaking or the heater is busted in February, it seems like some landlords refuse to take care of the situation. Landlords, who are less than truthful are troubling (and often irritating), but it is even worse when lying rises to the level of fraud – especially if it impacts taxpayers. Today’s Fraud of the Day from the Pocono Record, discusses the case of one Pennsylvania landlord who finds herself in the hot seat – accused of lying not to a tenant, but to public housing authorities in order to receive Section 8 benefits.
The Section 8 public housing program provides assistance to those meeting specific income eligibility requirements, helping to provide money needed for rent. The article reports that one Pennsylvania woman is accused of theft by deception for collecting Section 8 benefits for a house she did not live in and failing to report income from a job. (Well…that doesn’t sound good.) Investigators started looking into the case when they received information that the defendant was not living in the home provided to her via the Section 8 program. According to court documents, investigators alleged that the tenant of that home was the woman’s daughter, rather than the defendant. Authorities say that the daughter paid the defendant $500 a month for rent – at the same time that the defendant was receiving $499 per month for Section 8 public housing assistance. Additionally, authorities say the defendant owns and rents four additional properties. She also allegedly works as a bartender and has a home cleaning service. (That sounds like sufficient income.) Authorities say she neglected to report her income to the proper officials, which would have made her ineligible to receive the public housing.
The defendant was arraigned in January 2013 and released on her own recognizance. She is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Even so, the case is instructive. How might a public housing authority detect the type of fraud alleged in this case? The answer is simple: public records and data analytics.
It seems like everyone is trying to break into the real estate market these days. For all those convicted of Section 8 public housing fraud, I think they should keep in mind that jail is a one-way rental agreement.