Woman told to repay $13,000 in housing aid

Fraud case guilty plea also brings probation

January 11, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A 39-year-old Columbia woman was sentenced to five years of probation yesterday and was ordered to repay $13,000 in public housing aid that she admitted stealing from a Howard County housing program.

Wanda G. Lilly was one of three Columbia women indicted in July on charges they defrauded the Howard County Housing Commission of $53,000 by lying on application forms.

Housing officials have trumpeted those arrests as evidence of a crackdown on housing fraud.

"They failed to report the income to us," said Leonard S. Vaughan, executive director of the Housing Commission. "The one thing we want all of our clients to recognize is that they are required to tell the truth."

Lilly, who declined to comment, pleaded guilty yesterday to a theft scheme charge under a plea deal with prosecutors who dropped two other theft charges. She faced 15 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Lilly worked for as many as four employers while she was accepting housing aid to live in the 5900 block of Tamar Drive in Long Reach Village. Between 1996 and 1998, Lilly earned $56,000 but reported earning only about $15,000 in child support and other cash payments.

Katrina M. Anderson, 30, pleaded guilty in November to stealing $6,964 from the commission. She was also placed on five years of probation and ordered to repay the money.

Anderson obtained federal housing aid in May 1991. Six years later, she took a job with the Division of Correction but never disclosed that employment or salary to the housing commission.

The third defendant, Rhonda Bratcher, 29, has also been charged with theft and accused of stealing more than $30,000 in aid. Bratcher is scheduled for trial Feb. 2.

Bratcher is accused of applying for aid as a single woman, but was married and received financial support from her husband, officials said.

In public housing programs, rent is based on a sliding scale linked to household income. About 1,000 households in Howard County receive federal Section 8 housing benefits through the Housing Commission.

The indictments of the three Columbia women this summer followed similar indictments of two Howard County women in June 1998. Those cases also ended in plea agreements requiring probation, community service and restitution.

Assistant State's Attorney Lara C. Weathersbee said her office and housing investigators are hoping to discourage future violators.

"We're sending a message," Weathersbee said.

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