In early June 2014, probation officers in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania came across records of two individuals under their supervision and noticed that they shared the same residential address. Under certain terms of probation and supervised release from prison, many individuals are not allowed to associate or live with others who have been convicted of certain offenses. A closer look revealed that the home was funded by the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is more commonly known as Section 8.
The investigation by the Pennsylvania probation officers revealed two major Section 8 violations: A convicted felon residing in a home benefited by housing vouchers, plus an adult earning a full-time salary without reporting it to housing officials. The probation officers reported the situation to prosecutors, who charged a woman with Section 8 violations and theft by deception.
Understanding Section 8
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides Section 8 assistance as a major program designed to help disadvantaged populations in terms of housing. Section 8 vouchers are essentially cash payments that households can use to pay rent and utilities. Unfortunately, this federal subsidy is often a target of fraud, waste and abuse. In the Poconos case mentioned above, the woman charged with the fraudulent acts was receiving close to $14,000 per year in government assistance.
Types of Section 8 Fraud
Unscrupulous people can defraud the Section 8 program in various ways. One of the most common violations consists of deceptively underreporting income earned. Another violation is to rent a room in the Section 8 home or allow unauthorized people to live in the residence.
Reporting Fraudulent Section 8 Violations
Since Section 8 programs are handled at the community level, the best way to report compliance issues and suspicious activity is to contact the local housing authority. Each agency has an internal unit dedicated to receiving reports and investigating alleged violations. Those who report Section 8 fraud can request anonymity.
Specific reporting methods range from online forms to telephone calls and personal visits. All investigators ask to be provided with as much information as possible, including identifying information of the suspected perpetrators, photographs, copies of documents, and the alleged scheme. Writing down a detailed explanation that answers questions such as who, what, where, and why are often recommended. Staying anonymous may prevent the ability to follow up on the status of the investigation.