TAMPA — In the first of a string of similar court hearings this week, a former Tampa Housing Authority official pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of conspiracy and embezzling federal grant money.
Federal prosecutors said the scheme involved three former Tampa Housing Authority employees who recruited friends and relatives to pose as landlords and defraud the Department of Housing and Urban Development of more than $100,000.
A federal indictment unsealed in December named 13 people in the conspiracy.
Former Section 8 counselor Calvin Coleman, 44, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy, nine counts of embezzlement and two counts of using public money for personal gain. The more serious counts of embezzlement and misuse of public funds carry a maximum of 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Coleman worked as a Section 8 counselor for the Tampa Housing Authority between Jan. 31, 2000, and April 1, 2005. Prosecutors said that from as early as August 2003, Coleman was embezzling HUD money.
As a Section 8, or Housing Choice program counselor, Coleman illegally authorized utility allowance payments to individuals who weren't entitled to receive them, according to court records.
Prosecutors said Coleman then conspired with co-worker Carlton Miles, another Section 8 counselor, to enter bogus landlord names into the Housing Authority's computer system and fraudulently send those individuals housing payment money. The third former Housing Authority employee charged in the scheme is Mario Lovett.
Jose Oliver and Koungnum Brown, two of the bogus landlords recruited by Coleman, are scheduled to plead guilty later this week. Brian Montgomery, another fake landlord who pleaded guilty in January to the fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Montgomery is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Kevin Graham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.