Former Executive Director of Gallup Housing Authority Charged With Federal Fraud and Theft Offenses
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal grand jury has indicted two men from Gallup, N.M., on charges that they engaged in a scheme to defraud the United States and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of more than $100,000. The indictment was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, Phyllis Robinson, Special Agent in Charge of Region 6, HUD Office of Inspector General, and Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI.
Danny Garcia, 37, and Michael Virruso, 61, are charged in a 12-count indictment that was filed late yesterday afternoon. The indictment charges Garcia and Virruso with one count of conspiracy and eight counts of making false claims against the United States. It also charges Garcia with three counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds. According to the indictment, from June 2010 through Oct. 2012, Garcia and Virruso engaged in a scheme to steal federal funds provided by HUD to the Gallup Housing Authority (GHA). At the time of the offenses charged in the indictment, Garcia was the Executive Director of GHA.
HUD is a federal agency whose core mission is to make quality, affordable housing accessible to all Americans. It oversees and funds programs designed to provide affordable housing for low-income Americans. One such program is the Capital Fund Program (CFP) which provides grants to public housing agencies for the purpose of making improvements to public housing developments. According to the indictment, GHA is a public housing agency that receives approximately $400,000 in CFP grants each year.
The indictment alleges that as Executive Director of GHA, Garcia was responsible for selecting contractors to carry out GHA projects, reviewing and approving invoices payable by GHA, and requesting HUD funds to pay for GHA projects. It further alleges that in summer 2010, Garcia awarded a contract to remove and replace sidewalks in a GHA housing development to a construction company that employed Virruso (company) and also appointed Virruso to act as safety inspector. While working on the project, Virruso allegedly submitted invoices to GHA for work performed by the company and for which the company received payment, and Garcia allegedly used GHA funds to pay Virruso’s invoices and then obtained reimbursement from HUD’s CFP. According to the indictment, Virruso fraudulently received more than $75,000 through this scheme. The indictment also alleges that Garcia embezzled more than $15,000 of HUD funds by misusing a GHA debit card.
Count 1 of the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy and carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on conviction. Counts 2 through 9 each charge the defendants with making false claims against the United States. A conviction on each of these counts carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on conviction. Counts 10 through 12 each charge Garcia with theft of government property. A conviction on each of these counts carries a maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Charges in indictments are only accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the Region 6, HUD Office of Inspector General and the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Peña.