Worcester Housing Authority Uncovers Fraud

(NECN: Mike Cronin) - Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Raymond Mariano says over the last five years, the agency has found residents and landlords responsible for $1.6 million in fraud.

"There isn't a big financial incentive for us to do this, but we do it because it's the right thing and we do it because if we do it, well, people will think well of our residents," Mariano said.

A report by the Housing Authority reveals more than 400 cases of fraud from public housing residents and section eight residents and landlords. Maryann Fifield lives at the Webster Square Towers, a Housing Authority property. She says it's the first she's heard of any fraud.

"People should be honest. They shouldn't lie and things like that," Fifield said.

Mariano says many case investigations began with tips.

"We have other individuals who will call us up and say, 'We know Mr. Smith is not doing what he's supposed to, he's not reporting all of his income,' or for example, we'll see somebody driving in a luxury vehicle," Mariano said.

The Housing Authority says they've recovered about two-thirds of the money. Depending on the severity, Mariano says perpetrators could face serious action.

"Eviction is an option, and once you've been evicted from public housing, that stays on your record and you can't go and go to public housing anywhere else. You certainly have to pay back the money," Mariano.

Mariano says the majority of residents do the right thing and pay full rent, but he wants the few breaking the rules to know there are consequences.

"We wanted to improve the reputation of the Worcester Housing Authority. We want people to think well of our residents. We don't want them to think that they're cheaters, we don't want them to think that they're loafers, we don't want them to think that they're involved in criminal behavior," Mariano said.

"I think it's very dishonest. I shouldn't think people should do stuff like that. They're there to help you," Fifield said.

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