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San Diego's Section 8 drug and crime wave

$3 million in fraudulent overpayments amid lax reporting and enforcement

Is Casa Mira View too large to be monitored by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program?
Is Casa Mira View too large to be monitored by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program?

Fraud, drug use, and other criminal activity has been going unpunished in the county's so-called Section 8 subsidized housing program, with lax enforcement by officials causing multimillion-dollar havoc.

So says an August 3 report by San Diego County’s chief of audits, Juan Perez, following a lengthy investigation of the long-troubled subsidy program.

"The Section 8 Rental Assistance Program is a federally funded program that provides monthly rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program," notes the report.

"It is locally administered by the Housing Authority of the County of San Diego."

Zygmunt Wilf

As reported here last month by Moss Gropen, the subsidy program is controversial in some parts, the most recent case being that of Casa Mira View, a vast apartment complex visible from I-15 in Mira Mesa that was built by Garden Communities, controlled by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf.

Only two people to investigate criminal activity countywide

To keep track of criminal activity involving Section 8, two employees of the county housing authority's review and integrity unit are assigned full time to "investigate allegations of program abuse and potential fraud," the audit says.

Based on the document's conclusions, it's a lot to handle.

Auditors "identified over $3M of outstanding receivables that resulted from fraudulent overpayments” and "noted that only one case with a fraudulent overpayment of $25,120 was referred to the District Attorney for prosecution since July 2012 to date."

From July 1, 2013, through September 30, 2013, according to the document, the integrity unit "received 236 allegations of fraud and abuse. This equates to an average of 78 allegations per month or 936 allegations per year."

During the period of the audit, from fiscal year 2013 through the present, auditors sought to determine "whether the Program Review and Integrity Unit’s procedures are adequate to allow for thorough investigations of fraud, claims and complaints received."

According to the report, a "judgmental sample of 30 complaints of suspected program fraud and abuse was selected for detailed testing," of which 12 had issues regarding the "timeliness and adequacy of procedures followed."

Four complaints from 2013, involving an assortment of violence, criminal activity, income, and drugs, have yet to be dealt with, the audit found.

Though the county's housing agency "initiated the investigation soon after the complaints were received, there was no evidence of closure and resolution documented within the case files."

The auditors were told that the agency has "limited resources assigned to the unit which prevents them from addressing complaints received in a timely manner."

Making matters worse, auditors "found that investigation activities conducted for two complaints received in 2013 with allegations of criminal activity and drugs were not sufficient."

In one example uncovered by the review, an August 7, 2013, complaint "was referred by the Sheriff’s Department documenting that the people living in the unit had engaged in criminal activity (burglary)," but no follow-up investigation was conducted.

"Burglary is not an actionable offense"

By way of explanation, the agency staff told auditors "burglary is not an actionable offense per HUD regulations, as it does not affect the housing unit or individuals living in the unit. Therefore, further examination of the complaint was not deemed necessary."

The tenant "was eventually removed from the Section 8 Program in December 2014 as a result of an arrest due to the possession of illegal drugs in the unit," according to the document.

One meeting and drug allegations laid to rest

In another case, a September 2013 complaint alleged a participant in the subsidized program had committed "violations to the program including the use of drugs."

The document continues, "In addition, there were several complaints from the property management claiming the tenant was in violation of the terms of the lease by engaging in the use of drugs and disruptive behavior."

Says the audit, "staff held a conference with the participant and based solely on that conference cleared them of the allegations. There was no evidence within the case file that a follow up was scheduled."

In addition, six of the complaints reviewed — five of which were said to have involved criminal activity, three of them violent — were missing from their investigative files. As a result, says the audit, the housing agency "was unable to confirm if an investigation into the complaint was conducted."

In a July 28 response to the audit, Housing and Community Development department director Todd Henderson generally agreed with the report's findings and recommendations to set performance goals for “the timeframe in which claims should be investigated and resolved,” saying an update would be done by August 31.

"However, it is important to note that investigations can take anywhere from a few hours to several months or longer to conclude, depending on the complexity of the allegations and the information provided."

The letter adds that "a process for Quality Control review of the allegation log, files created, and files selected for investigation was implemented, effective July 1, 2015.

Regarding the making of criminal referrals, he wrote, "It is important to note that not all criminal activity is against program rules," but added, "effective immediately, case notes will be documented to reflect the status of the investigation."

In answer to the audit's finding of fraudulent overpayments, Henderson's letter adds that his department would revise its procedures "to include [district attorney] contact information, forms, and timeframes. It is important to note that [the housing department] has no discretion over which cases are accepted for prosecution by the District Attorney."

Adds the letter, "The process for engaging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General will be similarly documented and included in the desk manual."

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Is Casa Mira View too large to be monitored by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program?
Is Casa Mira View too large to be monitored by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program?

Fraud, drug use, and other criminal activity has been going unpunished in the county's so-called Section 8 subsidized housing program, with lax enforcement by officials causing multimillion-dollar havoc.

So says an August 3 report by San Diego County’s chief of audits, Juan Perez, following a lengthy investigation of the long-troubled subsidy program.

"The Section 8 Rental Assistance Program is a federally funded program that provides monthly rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program," notes the report.

"It is locally administered by the Housing Authority of the County of San Diego."

Zygmunt Wilf

As reported here last month by Moss Gropen, the subsidy program is controversial in some parts, the most recent case being that of Casa Mira View, a vast apartment complex visible from I-15 in Mira Mesa that was built by Garden Communities, controlled by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf.

Only two people to investigate criminal activity countywide

To keep track of criminal activity involving Section 8, two employees of the county housing authority's review and integrity unit are assigned full time to "investigate allegations of program abuse and potential fraud," the audit says.

Based on the document's conclusions, it's a lot to handle.

Auditors "identified over $3M of outstanding receivables that resulted from fraudulent overpayments” and "noted that only one case with a fraudulent overpayment of $25,120 was referred to the District Attorney for prosecution since July 2012 to date."

From July 1, 2013, through September 30, 2013, according to the document, the integrity unit "received 236 allegations of fraud and abuse. This equates to an average of 78 allegations per month or 936 allegations per year."

During the period of the audit, from fiscal year 2013 through the present, auditors sought to determine "whether the Program Review and Integrity Unit’s procedures are adequate to allow for thorough investigations of fraud, claims and complaints received."

According to the report, a "judgmental sample of 30 complaints of suspected program fraud and abuse was selected for detailed testing," of which 12 had issues regarding the "timeliness and adequacy of procedures followed."

Four complaints from 2013, involving an assortment of violence, criminal activity, income, and drugs, have yet to be dealt with, the audit found.

Though the county's housing agency "initiated the investigation soon after the complaints were received, there was no evidence of closure and resolution documented within the case files."

The auditors were told that the agency has "limited resources assigned to the unit which prevents them from addressing complaints received in a timely manner."

Making matters worse, auditors "found that investigation activities conducted for two complaints received in 2013 with allegations of criminal activity and drugs were not sufficient."

In one example uncovered by the review, an August 7, 2013, complaint "was referred by the Sheriff’s Department documenting that the people living in the unit had engaged in criminal activity (burglary)," but no follow-up investigation was conducted.

"Burglary is not an actionable offense"

By way of explanation, the agency staff told auditors "burglary is not an actionable offense per HUD regulations, as it does not affect the housing unit or individuals living in the unit. Therefore, further examination of the complaint was not deemed necessary."

The tenant "was eventually removed from the Section 8 Program in December 2014 as a result of an arrest due to the possession of illegal drugs in the unit," according to the document.

One meeting and drug allegations laid to rest

In another case, a September 2013 complaint alleged a participant in the subsidized program had committed "violations to the program including the use of drugs."

The document continues, "In addition, there were several complaints from the property management claiming the tenant was in violation of the terms of the lease by engaging in the use of drugs and disruptive behavior."

Says the audit, "staff held a conference with the participant and based solely on that conference cleared them of the allegations. There was no evidence within the case file that a follow up was scheduled."

In addition, six of the complaints reviewed — five of which were said to have involved criminal activity, three of them violent — were missing from their investigative files. As a result, says the audit, the housing agency "was unable to confirm if an investigation into the complaint was conducted."

In a July 28 response to the audit, Housing and Community Development department director Todd Henderson generally agreed with the report's findings and recommendations to set performance goals for “the timeframe in which claims should be investigated and resolved,” saying an update would be done by August 31.

"However, it is important to note that investigations can take anywhere from a few hours to several months or longer to conclude, depending on the complexity of the allegations and the information provided."

The letter adds that "a process for Quality Control review of the allegation log, files created, and files selected for investigation was implemented, effective July 1, 2015.

Regarding the making of criminal referrals, he wrote, "It is important to note that not all criminal activity is against program rules," but added, "effective immediately, case notes will be documented to reflect the status of the investigation."

In answer to the audit's finding of fraudulent overpayments, Henderson's letter adds that his department would revise its procedures "to include [district attorney] contact information, forms, and timeframes. It is important to note that [the housing department] has no discretion over which cases are accepted for prosecution by the District Attorney."

Adds the letter, "The process for engaging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General will be similarly documented and included in the desk manual."

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Comments
11

But, according to Toni Atkins and Todd Gloria, it's racist to take note of crime in welfare housing.

So be careful and don't talk about it.

Aug. 24, 2015

Help me out here, I'm very confused. Early on the report says:

"...Casa Mira View, a vast apartment complex visible from I-15 in Mira Mesa that was built by Garden Communities, controlled by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf..."

But then, reading the text, it seems the property has been occupied for at least 2 years. Are we blaming the builder for the criminal element that has entered the property? Why is Mr. Wilf's picture featured? How is this relevant? Shouldn't it be Housing and Community Development department director Todd Henderson?

As a former affordable housing property manager I'm surprised that management wasn't more proactive. It's hard to ignore problems like this when there is a parade of residents coming to the office to complain about these bad tenants. Everyone involved in managing that property should be fired.

But, you say, what if tenants weren't complaining to management? Then management should be fired. Residents should be comfortable bringing their concerns to management and if they aren't there is a serious management problem.

Aug. 24, 2015

Are you saying the residents of Casa Mira View have been found committing these crimes or are you saying these are crimes that have been committed by Section 8 housing residents all over the county or city and you're just referencing Casa Mira View as an example where there's some Section 8 housing? You start out talking about Casa Mira View, but then switch to general county problems without really connecting the two. Feels a little bit like George Bush saying 9/11 and Saddam Hussein in the same speech enough times to fool people thinking the two were related. I live in Mira Mesa, in a house a few blocks from the apartment complex, and I haven't seen an increase in crime or any other issues since the apartment complex was built. We regularly run and walk our dog late at night and feel safe. I don't mind a little investigative reporting and I'd like to keep up with anything going on in my neighborhood, but I'm not sure what your point is and it feels like you have an agenda other than reporting facts. If there's no agenda, then the article is just poorly written.

Aug. 24, 2015

HUD housing is one giant fraud. While some of the people living in HUD housing are deserving most are not. The criteria is low income and not assets. Many of the residents hide income and/or do not report cash under the table income. I live near a huge HUD complex. I see many people who are not American Citizens, have never worked in America, do not speak English, etc. I see HUD residents park their Mercedes, Porsches, Lexus, in the street. The office operates on a pay-for-play basis. If you want a two bedroom for one person all you have to do is list a relative as your caregiver. I watch as well-to-do children drop off their parents. About 20% of the HUD residents deserve taxpayer help the rest are scamming the system. I have complained to everyone I can think of and the only reply I ever got was from some twit out of LA who said that their paperwork was in order.

Aug. 25, 2015

Not surprising in Obama's Giveaway America. Work, self-reliance, saving, discipline? All for suckers! The world owes it all to you, and it owes you NOW, so go out and take what you deserve! Those you're taking it from are just rich, greedy sleazebags who have been abusing and oppressing you, so it's OK!

Aug. 25, 2015

"While some of the people living in HUD housing are deserving most are not."

Citation please. Unless your name is Limbaugh, you are not entitled to make such sweeping unsupported statements in the Reader. I know about 100 of these people quite well and only one who cheats (they have income from working in a bar in Tijuana and that income is not listed (but it isn't much)). Some are (were) cab drivers who are able to fiddle with their tip income statement. Not a single one is driving a Mercedes, Porsche or Lexus. About half own no vehicle at all.

I understand the emotional distress that some people feel. They think 'I worked hard for x number of years and these people are getting money for nothing...'. Well, until you've walked a mile in their shoes, be careful about judging them.

I was uncomfortable about the mass influx of Vietnamese 40 years ago (I'm a Vietnam vet), but I learned that these people desperately needed help and their productivity has paid off. They are major contributors to the local economy and few are living in subsidized housing.

Now we have immigrants from Africa, El Salvador and the Middle East. Give them time- see how things work out. They may transition from a world of fear and scarcity to being valued citizens in America. For many, HUD housing is a bridge to a better life that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

Aug. 25, 2015

You sure don't live across the street from the HUD housing project I do. Taxpayer subsidized housing should be for American Citizens not for people who are dumped here by their relatives have never worked or paid taxes. Americans first.

Aug. 26, 2015

Wow. San Diego is more full of hateful folks than I had imagined. This used to be a city where people were tolerant and decent to one another. But, since the military/industrial complex has made it possible for any moron who can spell their own name to get an overpaid job and move here, I suppose that's to be expected. It's very easy for people who get paid way too much money to go on like these ones here are going on. But, it's typical of these kinds of people. They will swear they 'worked hard" for what they have, etc., and will look down on those who make less money than they do. They will swear they are not "criminals", but yet they get drunk, do drugs, and have no doubt done all they can to avoid paying as much in taxes as they should. Ah, these are the ones who want San Diego to be a "fun in the sun" paradise. Well, folks, as a native whose roots here date back to 1880, I've got news for you: San Diego is a real city with real social issues that needs resolving. So, what can YOU do to help resolve these issues in a realistic and humane manner? Ah. Just as I thought. Silence. SMH.

Aug. 28, 2015

An extremely hateful response you post. "these kinds of people". Irony much?

Aug. 31, 2015

If you think were are hateful, you are free to leave. And even luckier for you, the door for your exit is just down I-5.

Sept. 1, 2015

All these problems go back to how the phrase "general welfare" in the constitution has been abused. Some stupid Supreme Courts let the cat out of the bag a long time ago and permit the congress to determine what is constitutional. Now we are giving the country away, one lazy immigrant at a time.

Sept. 1, 2015

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