Tom Baker has diligently pursued those who
have defrauded the system.
For this reason he deserves our recognition.
Walton County Housing pursues fraud investigations
The Walton County Housing Agency has requested investigations on 16 clients that
evidence indicates reported false information on income and family composition
to the agency. That information has been presented to the HUD Inspector
General’s office for investigation and possible prosecution. These 16
individuals appear to have caused an overpayment of assistance in the amount of
$64,296. In a letter to the HUD Inspector General on April 8, 2011, Housing
Director Tom Baker made detailed referrals and asked that a complete
investigation be conducted. All 16 former tenants have been removed from the
program under agency rules; and they cannot reapply for assistance for a period
of 3 years unless exonerated by the Inspector General.
The Agency currently receives $1.6 million each year from the federal government
to provide rental housing assistance in Walton County. This money allows the
agency to provide assistance to about 300 local families each month through the
Section 8 voucher program. In addition to helping needy families, the program
also helps participating Walton County landlords by assuring that a portion of
the rent due from tenants will be paid each month. All revenues associated with
this program are federal tax dollars. No county ad valorem revenue is used to
provide this assistance, nor is money paid directly to clients. There is a
further benefit to the county as a whole in that participating rental units are
periodically inspected to ensure they meet HUD standards of safety and
habitability, thus reducing the level of deteriorated housing in the community.
Recently affidavits were signed against 4 past clients for public assistance
fraud that represented a loss to the agency of $24,459.00. One has been
successfully prosecuted in a Walton County Court and partial restitution has
been made to the agency. The other three cases are pending.
Baker states, “There is no trickery involved in the process and the rules are
clear. Clients are asked about family size and income and it is up to them to
tell us the truth.” Further, “It finally got to the point that we had to seek
investigative help in hopes that we can control the fraud issue at some point.
Our agency is a small agency, and I cannot comprehend the loss that may be
occurring in the other 3,000 larger agencies in our nation.”
In February of 2011 the agency collected over $11,000.00 from tenants that have
been identified as owing the agency due to over payments. Said Baker, “This was
a good month, as most months we only collect about $2,000.00 of the debt owed to