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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Arkansas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 28, 2017

Couple Sent to Prison for Scheme to Steal HUD Funds Intended for the Cotton Plant Housing Authority

LITTLE ROCK—Patrick C. Harris, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Tracey D. Montaño, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division, and Phyllis G. Robinson, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—Office of Inspector General, announced today that Chief United States District Judge Brian S. Miller sentenced Rhonda Williams, 50, and her husband, Gary Williams, 59, both of Des Arc, Arkansas, to prison for their role in a scheme to steal money intended for use by the Cotton Plant Housing Authority.

On September 2, 2016, Rhonda Williams and Gary Williams appeared before Judge Miller and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud and money laundering. Today, Judge Miller sentenced Rhonda Williams to 37 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In the same hearing, Judge Miller sentenced Gary Williams to 24 months of federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The Williams were jointly ordered to pay restitution of $732,177.80 and to forfeit $145,000 in cash seized from their home, the money in four bank accounts, a boat, and an SUV.

“These defendants took public money that was meant to provide affordable housing to a low income population, and instead used it for their own personal gain,” Harris said. “This case is an example of how our office will continue working tirelessly to protect the public and eliminate this unacceptable fraud, waste, and abuse.”

The Cotton Plant Housing Authority received its annual operating funds from HUD in the form of an annual distribution. Rhonda Williams served as the Executive Director of the Housing Authority and Gary Williams was the Housing Authority’s Maintenance Supervisor.

From January 31, 2001 to December 31, 2014, the Williams conspired and executed a scheme where they used false and fraudulent pretenses to receive funds that were intended for use by the Housing Authority. As part of the conspiracy, the Williams lied about the reasons for the payment of Housing Authority money, and solicited and accepted bribes and kickback payments from Housing Authority contractors. In addition, the Williams caused the Housing Authority to pay for their personal expenses on their Housing Authority credit cards, and took Housing Authority equipment and materials and used them in the construction of their personal residence.

“IRS-Criminal Investigation remains committed to its pursuit of individuals who engage in corruption at the expense of hardworking Americans,” Montaño said. “As employees of the Cotton Plant Housing Authority, Rhonda and Gary Williams’ actions violated public trust by using their position to enrich themselves at the expense of American taxpayers. Today’s sentence demonstrates the government’s determination to ensure that trust is not broken.”

This investigation was conducted by IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, the HUD - Office of Inspector General, and the Benton Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Cameron McCree and Edward Walker prosecuted the case for the United States.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Updated July 28, 2017