Living the High Life

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42189930 - closeup of smiling woman realtor giving key of new apartment to client. female house agent sitting at the desk with house miniature and plan.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a housing choice voucher program to assist very low-income families, the elderly and disabled individuals with finding affordable, decent, safe and sanitary housing. Participants in the housing voucher program are permitted to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. As long as the residence meets the program requirements, local public housing agencies (PHAs) administer federal funds from HUD to help cover the cost of the residence. Today’s fraud focus is on a Port St. Lucie, Florida woman who relied on nepotism to carry out a Section 8 fraud scheme that stole more than $73,000 in housing subsidies from the federal government.

The female from Port St. Lucie worked for a local housing authority where her mother was the president and executive director. (How convenient.) She used her position to navigate the rules and regulations of the program when she applied for the housing voucher program herself. The woman thought she could take advantage of HUD’s program to receive subsidies to supplement her own living situation. (Did I mention that her husband also worked at the same local housing authority as his wife and mother-in-law? Today’s case is the definition of nepotism.)

The Port St. Lucie woman knew that she made too much money to qualify for HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, but she applied anyway, lying about her income level on the applications she submitted over seven years. Today’s article states that she also thought it looked bad that she worked for the local housing authority. So, she didn’t record her employment with the local housing authority, a fencing company, a roofing company or her income from a garbage collection business. (Super bad decision. She also neglected to record her husband’s income.) However, she did claim that her husband’s son from a previous relationship and her niece lived with her. (This allowed her to qualify for a larger living space and subsidy from the government.)

This Section 8 fraud scheme had multiple weak spots, especially when it came to her husband. While he was apparently not aware of what his wife was up to, he did not conceal his presence at their three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,376 square foot house where they lived for five-and-a-half years. Their landlord and neighbors reported seeing him there regularly. Perhaps a crack in the façade of her perfect Section 8 fraud scheme appeared when the Floridian and her husband applied for a Veterans Administration loan to purchase a home. (She recorded her employment with the fencing company on the application. I’m guessing this triggered a red flag somewhere along the way.)

The 49-year-old housing authority employee admitted to nepotism, which violates the agreement between HUD and the local housing authority where she worked. She pleaded guilty to Section 8 fraud for collecting $73,953 in housing subsidies from the federal government. (It’s a pretty good assumption that the Port St. Lucie woman will have to pay back the $73,953 in restitution and who knows, she may be forced to move to a very cramped residence where taxpayers will continue to subsidize her living arrangements if she is sentenced to any prison time.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Woman thought she’d get away with a $73,000 Section 8 fraud – because of Mom,” published by Miami Herald on April 10, 2019.  

A Port St. Lucie woman pleaded guilty in federal court last week to a rare Section 8 housing fraud inside job, a seven-year rental house of lies that garnered $73,953 in housing subsidies from the federal government.

Stuart Housing Authority employee Cynthia Cabrera, 49, admitted she thought she’d get away with her scheme because of her close relationship with SHA president and executive director Maria Burger. Cabrera thought of Burger like a mother. Because Burger actually is her mother.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.