Seattle Woman Who Defrauded Three Public Assistance Programs of more than $320,000 Sentenced in Federal Court
Defendant Repeatedly Lied about Employment, Living Situation and Child Care
A Seattle woman who defrauded programs aimed at assisting the neediest in our community was sentenced today in federal court to three years of probation, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. DEKA HIRSI, 39, lied to obtain subsidized housing from the Seattle Housing Authority, falsely claimed that her only employment was working all night caring for her elderly parents, and claimed benefits for overnight daycare stays for her five children. In reality, HIRSI was running a small grocery store during the day, did not provide the nightly care for her parents, and her children lived in her parents’ home and did not receive daycare services. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ordered HIRSI to pay $328,509 in restitution calling it “among the most serious frauds I have ever seen.” The judge stopped short of imposing the prison sentence requested by prosecutors saying HIRSI suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) based on childhood trauma in Somalia. Of the fraud Judge Lasnik said “It’s wrong, it hurts people…. I want this to be a wake-up call for the community to not look the other way when you see something wrong.”
According to records filed in the case, in 2010 the Seattle Housing Authority received a complaint that HIRSI was defrauding the Section 8 program for the needy. HIRSI falsely claimed she was a single parent of five children. In fact, her husband lived with the family and was employed as a taxi driver. Investigators discovered the fraud did not stop there. HIRSI was also defrauding the COPES program (Community Options Program Entry System) which provides federal funds to caregivers. HIRSI claimed she cared for her elderly parents each night from 5 PM to 8 AM. The investigation revealed HIRSI was rarely at her parents’ home during those hours, and in some instances she claimed to have worked 80 hours in their home when she was out of the country. Finally, HIRSI claimed that because she was working all night at her parents’ home she needed overnight childcare for her five children. The false claims to the COPES and childcare programs total $270,983. The fraud on the Seattle Housing Authority totals $57,526. HIRSI used Section 8 benefits that should have gone to others since her income from the grocery store, combined with her husband’s income, means she did not qualify for subsidized housing.
When confronted by FBI investigators about the fraud, HIRSI made numerous false statements and continued to claim she qualified for the benefits.
In August 2017, HIRSI pleaded guilty to three counts of theft of government funds.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Department of Fraud and Accountability.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.