Columbus Woman Pleads Guilty To Embezzling Hud Program Funds, Filing False Income Tax Returns
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS – Wendy Harper, 44, Columbus, Ohio pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to embezzling HUD program funds from her employer, Harvest Management Group, Inc, which manages more than 900 units for elderly and disabled people who qualify for HUD assistance. She also pleaded guilty to filing a false income tax return.
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Barry McLaughlin, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD), and Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS) announced the pleas entered today before U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost.
According to court documents, Harper was responsible for managing payroll and payment functions for the agency. Harper manipulated the system to give herself unauthorized salary increases and unauthorized mileage reimbursements between 2009 and 2012.
Testimony presented during the plea hearing revealed that, according to calculations made by criminal investigators in this case, Harper would have had to have driven more than 1,200,000 miles in order for the mileage reimbursements to have been legitimate.
In a plea agreement, Harper acknowledged that the U.S. showed the amount of money she embezzled was $588,121.46 and that she concealed her crime by filing false income tax returns for 2009, 2010 and 2011 on which she failed to report the embezzled funds. The tax loss to the government was $126,019.36. Harper’s theft of these HUD program funds contributed to Harvest Management Group having difficulties maintaining the properties to minimum HUD standards and paying its property taxes.
Theft of federal program funds is punishable by up to ten years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. Filing false income tax returns is punishable by up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, the costs of prosecution and one year of supervised release. Judge Frost could also order her to pay restitution in an amount determined by the court. She will be required to file corrected tax returns for the three years and pay any due taxes and penalties.
Judge Frost will schedule a sentencing hearing following a pre-sentence investigation by the court.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by HUD and the IRS, the Reynoldsburg Police who referred the case for federal investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale E. Williams Jr., who is representing the United States in this case.