Jury Finds Former HUD Employee Guilty of Fraud and Identity Theft
HONOLULU – A federal jury today found Chun Mei Tong, also known as Mei Tong, 43, of Honolulu, guilty of five counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft for her scheme to use an alias and forge signatures to rent out properties under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as the "Section 8 Program") while she was also a HUD employee involved in overseeing the Section 8 program. The verdict followed a seven-day trial before Chief District Judge J. Michael Seabright. Sentencing is scheduled for December 16, 2019.
Kenji M. Price, United States Attorney, said that the Section 8 program is HUD’s major program for assisting low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford housing in the private rental market in the local community. Participants can choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program. The Section 8 program is administered locally by public housing authorities. A housing subsidy that may cover the full rent depending on the income of the participant is paid to the landlord directly by the public housing authority on behalf of the participating family.
According to the information presented during trial, from 2014 to 2019, Tong directed funds to her company for five Section 8 rentals located on Oahu. Tong received approximately $207,000 from HUD as part of her scheme. Tong created the alias, "Debbie Kim," to act as a property manager and landlord for five properties that she rented to Section 8 voucher holders. Posing as "Debbie Kim," Tong submitted documentation to the local public housing authorities for rental approval and payments of HUD funds. Tong covered up her ownership of two of the properties and also forged the signatures of the owners of three of the properties to ensure that all of the HUD funds paid to the landlord went directly to her company’s bank account.
Information produced in court also disclosed that Tong became a HUD employee in 2005 and worked in the Honolulu Field Office until her resignation in November 2015. As a HUD employee, Tong was prohibited from participating in the Section 8 program. Tong was also prohibited from engaging in the business of real estate. Tong never disclosed her involvement in multiple real estate companies or aliases she used in connection with those companies to anyone she worked with at the local public housing authorities or HUD.
Tong will face a mandatory term of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft and up to twenty years in prison for each count of wire fraud.
The investigation was led by HUD’s Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca A. Perlmutter and Morgan Early handled the prosecution.