GREENSBORO – A Durham, North Carolina woman was sentenced today to 30 months in prison, after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud that victimized the Chatham County Housing Authority, announced United States Attorney Sandra J. Hairston of the Middle District of North Carolina (MDNC).
JOANN JOHNSON DAVIS, age 65, was sentenced to a 30-month term of imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $194,136 by the Honorable Thomas D. Schroeder, United States District Judge in the United States District Court for the MDNC. DAVIS will be subject to supervised release for 2 years following her release from prison. She pleaded guilty on May 1, 2023, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.
According to court records and evidence presented at sentencing, DAVIS and others engaged in a bid-rigging, no-work jobs conspiracy between 2016 and 2020 while DAVIS served as the Executive Director of the Chatham County Housing Authority (CCHA). The CCHA is a Public Housing Authority (PHA) that received funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including under HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, colloquially known as Section 8, which assists low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled with affording decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. HUD regulations require PHAs to contract out micro-purchase and small-purchase jobs at a reasonable cost. DAVIS used her authority as executive director of the CCHA to direct these contracts to various friends and relatives by creating false bid proposals to “compete” with them, thereby demonstrating “reasonable” cost. DAVIS and various co-conspirators used stolen identities and company letterhead of actual people and businesses to give the false bid proposals the appearance of legitimacy. DAVIS would then select the bid proposal submitted by her friend or family member as the winner and award the CCHA contract to that individual, knowing there had been no assessment of “reasonable” cost, and regardless of whether that friend or family member was qualified to perform the contracted work. Often, no work at all was performed under these contracts. Regardless, the CCHA would pay the friend or family member. In total, between 2016 and 2020, DAVIS awarded CCHA contracts to no fewer than thirteen friends and relatives without any competitive bidding process, and the CCHA paid more than $200,000 to DAVIS’ friends and relatives for alleged contract work. DAVIS sometimes received kickbacks from these individuals in exchange for rigging the bid process and directing payment to that person for jobs not performed.
“Access to decent, safe, and sanitary housing is a basic human need,” said U.S. Attorney Hairston. “Misappropriating funds intended to help people afford decent housing is unconscionable, and we are grateful to the agencies that investigated this conduct and helped hold this defendant accountable.”
“Safeguarding taxpayer funded programs and resources that benefit low-income families in our communities is vital to the success of HUD’s programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Jerome Winkle, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. “HUD OIG remains steadfast in its commitment to work closely with Federal prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and state and local partners to aggressively investigate those who threaten HUD programs.”
“JoAnn Davis was entrusted to spend money intended to help improve the lives of others. She abused that trust by misusing the government funding to enrich her own life and the lives of her family and friends. The FBI is committed to hold accountable anyone who commits this type of fraud," said Robert M. DeWitt, the FBI Special Agent in Charge.
A co-defendant, Clintess Roberta Barrett-Johnson, age 55, of Durham, NC, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced on November 13, 2023, to four years’ probation and ordered to pay $57,179.00 in restitution.
Another co-defendant, Mi’chelle Necole Bell-Johnson, age 34, of Charlotte, NC, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced on September 18, 2023, to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $83,977.50 in restitution.
The case was investigated by the HUD Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney JoAnna G. McFadden.