Brooksville Housing Authority board member charged with grand theft, fraud

BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville police Chief George Turner came to the Brooksville Housing Authority board meeting last month with a concern.

Turner told the board that two of his officers had recently accompanied a man who was moving out of an apartment at Hillside Estates, one of the authority's two subsidized housing complexes. The man wanted a police escort because he lived there with the mother of his toddler, and he thought things might get tense, Turner said.

The man removed clothes and boxes of belongings without incident. Later, the woman showed up at the police station with a letter from the housing authority property manager stating the man didn't live there. That was worrisome, Turner told the board, because he clearly did.

As Turner related the story, housing board member Brenda Y. Colondres sat behind the dais shaking her head, then blurted, "He does not live there," Turner and other housing board members told the Times on Wednesday.

Unbeknownst to Turner and at least some of the board members, Colondres was the tenant.

On Wednesday, the 31-year-old was arrested and charged with grand theft and public housing assistance fraud. She remained in jail Wednesday evening in lieu of $4,000 bail. She is accused of falsifying her housing application, resulting in a much lower monthly rent for the three-bedroom apartment she had resided in for about four years.

The father, Tekova Castillo, had lived there for about three years and had a full-time job, Turner said. Rental payments are on a sliding scale, based on household income, so Colondres is suspected of illegally receiving about $13,200 worth of housing assistance, the chief said. The rent averaged about $25 a month, but some months was as low as $15, Turner said. Castillo has not been charged because his name was not on the housing application.

By the time Turner came to the board, Brooksville police detectives had started an initial investigation into Colondres. Shortly after, investigators with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined the effort, resulting in Wednesday's charges. Investigators talked to neighbors and subpoenaed payroll records and credit card statements, Turner said.

The investigation has now expanded to other residents, and more arrests are pending, Turner said.

Colondres already had pending legal troubles. She was detained on Oct. 17 at Bealls Outlet in Brooksville after an employee saw her placing several pieces of costume jewelry in her purse, records show. She was given a notice to appear in court for retail theft.

The Brooksville City Council appointed Colondres in May to serve a four-year term on the housing board. She is one of two authority residents on the board.

Mayor Frankie Burnett said Wednesday that the city staff is gathering information for the council as it considers Colondres' fate. Housing board chairman Randy Woodruff said he expects the board at its next meeting to draft a letter recommending that the City Council remove Colondres.

If the allegations are true, board member Gary Schraut said, it raises questions about why executive director Tommy Brooks and his staff didn't know. The Housing Authority office is located in the Hillside Estates complex.

"I'm going to have questions for my director because he's the guy on the ground, and his office is right in the middle of this," Schraut said.

Brooks did return a message left at his office late Wednesday afternoon.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Brooksville Housing Authority board member charged with grand theft, fraud 11/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 7:56pm]

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