SIGTARP catches counselor stealing $300,000 in modification payments
Lori Macakanja, a former housing counselor in Dunkirk, N.Y., pleaded guilty this week to mail fraud and theft of government money meant for modifying delinquent mortgages. Some 136 clients of her company, HomeFront Inc., gave Macakanja a combined $300,000 for promised modifications. She used the money for her own use, including gambling trips. She also used $4,000 worth of Troubled Asset Relief Program grants to the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency to pay her own mortgage. The mortgage fraud task force made up of Special Inspector General of TARP investigative agents and law enforcement officials caught Macakanja. "Sadly, this plea again demonstrates how a person who is in a position of trust, a housing counselor, abused that trust by preying upon the most vulnerable victims of the housing crisis — homeowners who could not pay their mortgage," said SIGTARP Acting Special Inspector General Christy Romero. Macakanja, 35, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for Feb. 2. "The defendant took advantage of her clients' trust, and gambled away her victims' hard earned money," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul. "This office will vigorously prosecute anyone who takes advantage of our most vulnerable citizens." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.