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Tampa ex-housing aide gets 4 years in embezzlement

TAMPA — A former counselor with the Tampa Housing Authority was sentenced Friday to more than four years in prison for his role in a scheme that embezzled federal grant money meant for the poor.

Calvin Coleman received 50 months, which is the sentence federal prosecutors were seeking from U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich.

"You did a lot of harm," Kovachevich told Coleman, 44. "The government is making an example of you because of the seriousness of the crime."

Coleman pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy, nine counts of embezzlement and two counts of using public money for personal gain.

From August 2003 until 2005, prosecutors said, Coleman and two other Housing Authority officials embezzled grant money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carlton Miles, a former University of Florida football player, got two years in prison in June. Mario Lovett was sentenced to 18 months in April.

That left Coleman, who prosecutors said abused his position as a Section 8 counselor to steal and defraud $488,912. Prosecutors say he initiated the scam, which included entering bogus landlord names in the Housing Authority database, then splitting the receipts with friends he recruited to pose as landlords.

Coleman's attorney, Mark Rankin, sought 46 months in prison for his client, telling Kovachevich that Coleman had a drug addiction that clouded his judgment. He embezzled to feed his habit, Rankin said.

"He wasn't running around town in fancy cars," Rankin said. "He never lived the extravagant lifestyle. He only had a drug problem."

But assistant U.S. attorney Cherie Krigsman persuaded Kovachevich that Coleman deserved the four extra months. The fraud took place over two years and Coleman expanded the number of participants, she said.

"He stole from the people in the community who needed help the most," Krigsman said.

Asked by the judge if he had any final words, Coleman had one.

"Sorry."

Tampa ex-housing aide gets 4 years in embezzlement 08/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2008 5:39pm]
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