Clarkston tax preparer sentenced for multi-year tax fraud and prohibited from preparing future returns
ATLANTA - Janice Cooks has been sentenced for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds intended for housing for disabled women and their children.
“The defendant obtained nearly a million dollars from HUD in grant funds designated for housing for disabled women and children,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Cooks intentionally mismanaged the money, spent it on personal and business expenses not covered by the grant, and ultimately caused the intended recipients to lose their homes.
“This sentencing proves our continuing resolve to root out thievery in all forms, especially when the funds involved should have been used to help vulnerable members of our society,” said Nadine Gurley, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to protect the integrity of our housing programs.”
“Whether it’s housing benefits for eligible individuals, or Social Security payments to disabled persons, the Social Security Office of the Inspector General is committed to working with our Federal, State and local law enforcement partners to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in benefit programs,” said Wayne R. Warren, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the SSA OIG Atlanta Field Division. “Cases like this keep us focused on pursuing bad actors to protect Social Security and other benefits for those whose truly depend on them.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: During the years 2012 through 2015, HUD awarded Cooks three grants to fund the Quilt SOLE program; a program to provide housing for disabled women and children. Prior to receiving any grant funds, she was required to submit a detailed budget outlining the costs of her program and also attend a training conference to ensure she understood the rules and regulations surrounding receiving federal grant funds. The program rules required that she spend funds only in a manner consistent with her detailed budget and that she maintain documentation to justify all of her spending.
HUD approved funds for the Quilt SOLE to rent 14 apartments thus providing housing for 14 disabled women and their children. Cooks failed to adhere to the budget she created and to follow the program’s rules. In 2012, she requested and received approximately $125,000 in HUD funds. Instead of spending those funds on Quilt SOLE, she transferred over $59,000 into her own personal savings account.
Additionally, despite receiving funding for only 14 apartments, Cooks rented between 22 and 24 apartments at the same apartment complex. She also used HUD funds on business expenses not related to the Quilt SOLE program and on personal expenses like travel, dining out, and shopping. As a result of her misappropriation of the HUD funds in 2015, every family she was supposed to provide housing for received eviction notices and were forced to find other places to live.
Janice Cooks, 53, of Lithonia, Georgia, has been sentenced to four months in prison and eight months of home confinement to be followed by three years supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment, and pay restitution of $198,907 to HUD and $35,812.51 to Ashley Cascade Apartments. Cooks was convicted of these charges on September 8, 2017, after she pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane C. Schulman and Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Ghose prosecuted the case.
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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.