2003-05-02 / Front Page

Two Charged With Housing Fraud

By Howard Schwach
Two Charged With Housing Fraud By Howard Schwach

Two Charged With Housing Fraud
By Howard Schwach

Two Rockaway residents have been charged by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown with Grand Larceny for taking housing subsidies under false pretenses, stealing approximately $42,000 from the city.

The two are Shirley Watts, a United States Postal Service window clerk, and resident since 1993 in the New York City Housing Authority's Ocean Bay Houses and Thelma Bell, a long-time resident of the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway.

Watts is charged with unlawfully obtaining $19,196 in government rent subsidies from June, 1996 to January, 2001 while she was earning more than $30 thousand a year from the USPS.

Bell is charged with illegally obtaining $22,923 between February, 1998 and June, 2002 by concealing the fact that she lived with her husband, who earned approximately $40 thousand a year as a motor vehicle operator with the NYC Department of Homeless services. Bell had filed housing affidavits that showed that she lived only with her son.

Commissioner Rose Gill Hern, the head of the city's Department of Investigation, said the investigation focused on "people who lied about their employment, household income and or family composition and thereby fraudulently received subsidized housing benefits from the New York City Housing Authority."

District Attorney Richard Brown added, "The defendants are accused of cheating the city by allegedly stealing money as housing subsidies at a time when many New Yorkers are facing tough choices regarding housing and employment. The theft of public monies deprives others of that support and will not be tolerated."

If convicted on the charges, the two Rockaway residents each face up to seven years in prison.

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