Former HUD Director and two associates indicted on fraud and bribery charges
St. Louis, MO - An indictment relating to a former HUD director and two associates was unsealed today after their appearances this afternoon in federal court.
According to the indictment, Lavern Charles Hester was employed by HUD as Director of Multifamily in the St. Louis field office, and was responsible for approving and overseeing the FHA financing of multifamily properties. Donald and Crevonda Robinson (Cramer) owned single and multifamily properties that received FHA insured financing and construction funds approved by Hester for the rehabilitation and management of HUD subsidized properties. The indictment states that in June 2007 the Robinsons purchased a HUD subsidized multifamily property known as Union Sarah Rehab II in St. Louis through their company New Beginnings Redevelopment I, LLC. The Robinsons also purchased another property known as Chevy Chase Apartments located in Mexico, MO, through their company New Beginnings Redevelopment II, LLC. The indictment further alleges that Donald Robinson was the sole proprietor of Donald Robinson Realty which was general contractor for both the Union Sarah development and Chevy Chase Apartments. Between June 2007 and December 2008, Hester accepted $38,000 in payments from the Robinsons to facilitate Hester’s approval of a $1.5 million FHA insured refinancing of the mortgage on Chevy Chase Apartments, as well as the release of construction funds associated with the Chevy Chase rehab to the Robinsons. In some cases, the money to pay Hester came from the released construction funds. In an effort to evade detection and cover-up the payments, Hester failed to report them on his 2008 and 2009 annual Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports.
LAVERN CHARLES HESTER, Florissant, MO, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of conspiracy to provide and accept an illegal gratuity and two counts of making false statements. DONALD ROBINSON, St. Louis City, was indicted on the conspiracy count and one count each of mail fraud and making false statements. CREVONDA ROBINSON, St. Louis City, was indicted on the conspiracy count and one count of mail fraud.
If convicted, the conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, mail fraud carries a maximum of twenty years in prison and making false statements carries a maximum of five years and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Casey is handing the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.