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 the agency.”