The former executive director of the St. Clair Housing Commission in Michigan was sentenced earlier this week to more than three years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing Department of Housing and Urban Development money that was supposed to be used to provide housing to low-income families.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, Lorena Loren received a sentence of 37 months for conspiring to commit federal program fraud. Loren pleaded guilty last year.
Loren admitted in court that she conspired with several family members to steal federal funds provided to the commission by HUD to administer HUD’s low-income housing programs within St. Clair County.
Court records showed that Loren stole approximately $162,000 that was supposed to go for HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly known as Section 8 housing, which allows low-income families to lease privately owned rental properties with the assistance of HUD rental subsidies administered by the commission.
As part of the scheme, between August 2008 and August 2016, Loren fraudulently entered into Section 8 contracts that directly benefitted both herself and nearly all of her immediate family members.
According to court documents, Loren falsified Section 8 housing contracts and lease agreements by using nominees for lease agreements for her son. Loren and several relatives also falsely claimed that they owned certain rental properties that they did not actually own. They also claimed that they owned properties where former Section 8 tenants resided; and were owned by Loren herself.
Loren then used her position as executive director of the St. Clair Housing Commission to fraudulently issue Section 8 rental subsidy payments to her relatives and directed family members to establish joint bank accounts to allow various members of her family to access the ill-gotten funds.
Additionally, between 2010 and 2016, Loren used the commission’s two credit cards to make unauthorized purchases of personal items for herself and relatives from Amazon, Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Included among those purchase was adult and infant clothing, furniture, food, beauty supplies, medications, other household items, and alcoholic beverages.
Some of those purchases, totaling approximately $60,000, were shipped to some of the same family members involved in the Section 8 housing scheme at their residences in Georgia and Florida.
Loren used the commission’s operating budget, which is provided by HUD, to pay for all the unauthorized purchases, which totaled nearly $166,000.
Loren also dipped into the commission’s petty cash to steal approximately $8,500.
All told, Loren admitted to engaging in various fraudulent schemes to unlawfully obtain over $336,000 in federal funds.
As part of her guilty plea, Loren agreed to pay $336,240.62 in restitution to HUD, which will be paid with her full pension benefits and the proceeds from the sale of the Port Austin rental property that she used to commit the fraud in this case.
“This sentence shows that we will vigorously pursue public officials who steal the people’s money and use it for their own selfish gain,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
“It is important we all remember this type of fraud scheme is not a victimless crime,” Jeffery Peterson, acting special agent in charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “It impacts many hard working, tax paying citizens and creates an unnecessary increase of government spending.”