Former City Of Marietta Employees And Landlords Sentenced For Section 8 Housing Fraud
ATLANTA - Shantel Bowens, Debbie Bailey, and Babatunde “Babs” Abass have been sentenced for stealing funds from the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, known as “Section 8,” which provides rental assistance to low-income families.
“By stealing funds from the Section 8 program these defendants deprived needy families of suitable, safe housing,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute government program fraud and criminals who steal from those most in need.”
Nadine E. Gurley, Special Agent in Charge for the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General said: “HUD’s Office of Inspector General is dedicated to protecting taxpayers’ dollars and ensuring HUD programs are free from fraud, waste and abuse. This partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HUD’s Office of Inspector General has helped demonstrate to our recipients that those who seek to unlawfully profit by defrauding HUD programs will be vigorously prosecuted.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Bowens and Bailey worked for the City of Marietta’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, which oversees tenant and landlord participation in the Section 8 program. HUD provides the program with over $4 million per year in Section 8 funding. Abass and a fourth defendant, Tunji “Chris” Imoukhuede, were enrolled as landlords in the program.
In 2011, Bowens began identifying former Section 8 tenants, and reactivating their accounts, which had been closed. In particular, Bowens and Bailey selected tenants who were eligible for the largest Section 8 payments, based upon their employment and family size. Bowens altered computer records to link these tenants to Abass and Imoukhuede. The falsified records then indicated that the former tenants were now residing in properties owned by Abass and Imoukhuede. As a result, the two landlords began receiving fraudulent Section 8 payments. Abass and Imoukhuede kept 40% of the funds for themselves, and withdrew the remaining 60% in cash. In turn, they gave the cash to Bailey, who split it with Bowens.
During the scheme, which took place from January 2011 through June 2013, the four defendants obtained over $230,000 as a result of their fraudulent actions. In addition, from January 2010 through June 2013, Bowens lived rent-free in Section 8 housing under false pretenses. She falsified computer records so that a rental subsidy would be paid monthly to her own landlord, purportedly on behalf of a former tenant in the program. Over $40,000 in Section 8 funds went to Bowens’ own housing.
Bowens, 43, of Atlanta, Ga., has been sentenced to two years and two months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $275,871. Bowens was convicted on these charges on July 17, 2014, after she pleaded guilty.
Bailey, 41, of Rome, Ga., was sentenced on August 18, 2014, to one year and two months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $234,977. She pleaded guilty to these charges on May 27, 2014.
Abass, 48, of Mableton, Ga., was sentenced to ten months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $80,349. He was convicted on these charges on June 11, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.
Tunji Imoukhuede was arraigned on September 17, 2014.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the City of Marietta, and the Marietta Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorney Shanya J. Dingle prosecuted the case.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.