2 women indicted in housing fraud Subsidy recipients got $45,000, allegedly hid assets from the county

June 11, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A crackdown on fraud in Howard County's public housing programs has led to the indictments of two residents whom officials say received more than $45,000 in subsidies by misrepresenting their financial status.

Danielle Evans, 30, and Nicole D. Gilliam, 27, are charged with felony theft for allegedly hiding assets from Howard County's Office of Housing and Community Development, which oversees 1,275 subsidized housing units.

"We just can't afford to pay people who don't need the benefit," said Leonard Vaughan, Howard's housing administrator. "We overpaid $22,000 in rent subsidies on [Gilliam's] behalf. That's enough money to house three senior citizens."

In public housing programs, rent is based on a sliding scale linked to household income. Officials allege the women received more money than they should have to help pay their rent.

The indictments come as county housing officials are increasing efforts to root out fraud in a program that has grown rapidly. Vaughan said the number of residents receiving federal Section 8 housing subsidies through the county has doubled in the past four years -- reaching 975 households in April.

Much of that growth is due to an influx of residents who qualified for housing subsidies in other jurisdictions, he said. Section 8 money can be used to pay for housing anywhere the resident chooses if the rent does not exceed certain limits.

"Howard County is a very attractive location," Vaughan said.

In December, Vaughan hired an investigator to help identify and build cases that could result in criminal charges.

Assistant State's Attorney Bernard Taylor said Evans did not report property she owned in Marriottsville, jobs she worked nor a car she owned. She allegedly received $23,529 in illegal subsidies.

In an interview, Evans said she works many jobs and might have reported a lower income at her annual lease renewal because that's what she was earning at the time. She declined to specify what those jobs were.

"I'm a single parent and from time to time, to get extra money, I do work two jobs," Evans said. "Things always change with me."

Prosecutors said residents are required to report any change of income.

Gilliam, who lives in the 9600 block of White Acre Road in Columbia, did not return calls seeking comment.

Taylor said Gilliam had two Social Security numbers. One she used to report a nominal income to the housing authority and the other she used at Crestar Bank where she made a "modest" income, according to Vaughan. Gilliam never told housing officials about that job, Taylor said.

Gilliam allegedly received $21,972 in subsidies for which she did not qualify.

If convicted, Evans and Gilliam could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Charges against residents often are taken care of through administrative hearings. Vaughn said the office conducts about 40 such hearings a year to determine whether a resident has misrepresented assets or number of members in a household, or in cases of alleged criminal conduct in the rental unit. Dispositions can include termination of subsidies, eviction or a warning.

Vaughan said he hopes criminal convictions will serve as a deterrent to fraud.

"What we really want to have is people not violate the rules," Vaughan said. "It's an effort to make sure there is no fraud or abuse in the program."

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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