News and Press Releases

West Rutland Woman Convicted of False Statements on Housing Assistance Form

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2012

Burlington, VT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that on July 26, 2012, Mary Mirzaee, 29, of West Rutland, was sentenced to three years probation on her guilty plea to a felony charge of making false statements on a housing assistance form. Chief United States District Judge Christina Reiss also ordered Mirzaee to make restitution of $10,000 to the Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA).

According to court records, on January 27, 2008, April 8, 2008, and January 6, 2009, Mirzaee completed and submitted to the VSHA forms required for the retention of her Section 8 housing subsidy. On each form Mirzaee failed to disclose that boyfriend Graytz Morrison was living at the household, as well as Morrison's income and assets. During the course of a separate investigation into drug trafficking by Morrison, federal law enforcement agents engaged in visual and electronic surveillance of Morrison at Mirzaee's VSHA-subsidized residence in West Rutland. The investigation demonstrated further that Morrison was engaged in the sale of narcotics beginning in fall 2007. On June 16, 2009, agents executed arrest and search warrants at the residence, arresting Morrison and seizing more than $28,000 in cash belonging to Morrison. On April 7, 2011, Morrison was sentenced in United States District Court to 180 months imprisonment on convictions for conspiracy to distribute 5 kg or more of cocaine and 100 kg or more of marijuana and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The Section 8 program is a federal housing subsidy program jointly administered by United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and state public housing agencies, including VSHA. Subsidy recipients are periodically required to provide information to VSHA. Among the required information are the identities of household members and the income and assets of household members. The information is used by VSHA to calculate eligibility for and the level of housing subsidy benefits. Had VSHA been aware of Morrison's presence in the household, VSHA would have terminated Mirzaee from the Section 8 program because Morrison had a 2005 felony marijuana conviction that barred him from participating in the program as a household member. Additionally, Morrison's income and assets would have impacted the calculation of Mirzaee's subsidy.

United States Attorney Tristram J. Coffin praised the investigation by HUD's Office of the Inspector General and the assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "Public housing assistance is limited. Fraud by applicants or recipients diverts those limited moneys away from individuals who have a genuine need for the funds. This office will continue to prosecute such fraud, including the making of false statements on forms submitted to public housing assistance agencies." Newport, New Hampshire attorney Michael Shklar represented Mirzaee. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan of the U.S. Attorney's Rutland Branch Office

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