Ex-housing execs in Illinois face federal fraud complaint

November 28, 2017

CAIRO, Ill. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Tuesday it has filed a fraud complaint against two former officials of a troubled southern Illinois housing authority.

The complaint against former Alexander County Housing Authority executive directors James Wilson and Martha Franklin accuses them of using public housing money for personal use.

HUD says Wilson and Franklin used the money for personal travel and gifts and submitted false documentation. The agency says Wilson and Franklin overstated travel expenses and sometimes double-charged the housing authority, including for hotel stays in Las Vegas.

Wilson was ACHA’s executive director from 1989 to April 2013. Franklin was ACHA’s finance director from 2004 to April 2013, when she became executive director, serving through March 2015.

HUD is seeking 125 civil penalties against Wilson and Franklin totaling $720,000 and another $188,000 in assessments based upon false claims the two made with respect to funds provided by HUD.

“Every dollar misspent on personal travel and other expenses is a dollar that could support the individuals and families we serve,” said HUD Associate General Counsel Dane Narode. “Taxpayers deserve to know that the public programs they support are helping to meet the needs of the many, not the few.”

Wilson and Franklin don’t have listed home phone numbers where they can be reached for comment.

The Alexander County Housing Authority has been plagued by mismanagement and other problems. In February 2016, HUD placed the agency in administrative receivership and has managed its day-to-day operations since then. In acting, the agency pointed to a “years-long pattern of financial and operational mismanagement, poor housing conditions, and alleged civil rights violations against the households the housing authority was responsible for assisting.”

Earlier this year HUD said it will demolish two housing complexes in the city of Cairo, displacing about 200 families.

In addition to the fraud complaint, HUD is seeking to bar Wilson and Franklin from doing business with the federal government.

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