Former City of Marietta Employees and Landlords Indicted for Section 8 Housing Fraud
ATLANTA - Shantel Bowens, Debbie Bailey, and Babatunde “Babs” Abass have been arraigned on charges of stealing funds from the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as “Section 8,” which provides rental assistance to low-income families.
“These defendants stole federal funds designed to help families afford safe and decent housing,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “In addition, the two defendants who were employed by the City of Marietta violated the public trust by abusing their positions in order to divert public money for their own use.”
“This indictment should send a strong message that HUD-OIG will aggressively pursue landlord fraud, especially when it is facilitated by persons in positions of public trust,” said Lester Fernandez, Special Agent in Charge for Region 4, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. “In partnership with state and local law enforcement and federal agencies, we are deeply committed to ensuring that scarce resources are not diverted to those who seek to enrich themselves. We will continue to seek program accountability and promote honest stewardship of taxpayer funds by grantees entrusted with taxpayer monies.”
“We always deeply regret the theft of public funds, but I am grateful that we have highly qualified City employees, whom we can count on to alert us to issues such as these,” said Mayor Steve Tumlin. “It is important to note that City Staff uncovered these discrepancies which were vigorously investigated by our own Police Department and in turn given to Federal authorities. The City strongly supports the prosecution of those responsible and we seek to ensure this type of crime never happens again.”
“The City of Marietta takes our responsibility to be good shepherds of Federal funds very seriously,” said Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn. “Thus when our internal auditing process uncovered irregularities with Section 8 funds our City staff promptly referred the matter to the Marietta Police Department. When the police department investigation confirmed possible theft by former employees, we promptly notified our Federal HUD partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and together we worked to expose the entire theft scheme and bring the responsible individuals into the criminal justice system. Overall, we appreciate the seamless cooperative manner in which our local and Federal partnership functioned and we fully support the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the on-going prosecution of this case. We believe it will send the right message that we are united and will not tolerate any theft of public funds.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Bowens and Bailey were employed by the City of Marietta and were responsible for administering landlord and tenant enrollment for Section 8 participants in Marietta. To defraud the Section 8 program, Bowens and Bailey first identified former tenants who had been terminated from the program and reactivated the tenants’ accounts. They specifically chose tenants who were listed as unemployed or as having very low incomes, which would result in larger Section 8 payments.
Bowens and Bailey then altered computer records, linking the terminated tenants to Abass and Tunji “Chris” Imoukhuede, who were already registered as Section 8 landlords. As a result, the falsified computer records indicated that the terminated tenants were residing at properties purportedly owned by Imoukhuede and Abass. In fact, Imoukhuede and Abass did not own or rent the properties, and they were not the landlords of the terminated tenants.
As a result of Bowens’ and Bailey’s falsification of landlord, tenant and rental property information, federal Section 8 payments were issued to bank accounts controlled by Imoukhuede and Abass. In turn, Imoukhuede and Abass each withdrew the money and kept approximately 40 percent for himself. Each landlord then gave approximately 60 percent of the stolen funds to Brown, who split that amount with Bowens.
The scheme took place from January 2011 through June 2013. During that period, Marietta’s Housing Choice Voucher Program received over $4 million annually in Section 8 funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result of the fraud, Bowens, Bailey, Imoukhuede and Abass obtained over $230,000 in federal funds.
In addition, from January 2010 through June 2013, Bowens arranged for a landlord enrolled in the Section 8 program to receive funds for a fictional tenant who was purported to be Bowens’ aunt. In fact, Bowens herself moved into the landlord’s property and lived there rent-free for over three years. Bowens’ housing costs, paid for through Section 8, totaled over $40,000.
Shantel Bowens, Debbie Bailey, Tunji “Chris” Imoukhuede, and Babatunde “Babs” Abass were indicted by a federal grand jury on March 25, 2014. Tunji Imoukhuede will be arraigned at a later date.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General, the City of Marietta, and the Marietta Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorney Shanya J. Dingle is prosecuting the case.
This is part of an effort underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.