In the indictment filed March 25, Shantel Bowens and Debbie Bailey, also known as Debbie Brown, are accused of embezzling the money between January 2011 and June 2013 while holding their positions in the Marietta Department of Development Services, which administers the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8.
Bowens began employment with the city Oct. 18, 2000, as a housing assistance officer, and Brown was hired Sept. 13, 2004 as a housing assistance officer and family self-sufficiency
coordinator. Both resigned from their positions last summer.
The indictment alleges Bowens and Brown conspired with Tunji “Chris” Imoukhuede and Babatunde “Babs” Abass to falsely indicate in city records Imoukhuede and Abass were landlords renting to Section 8 clients and should receive a federal subsidy.
Abass is also known by the aliases Babatunde Abagun and Simiyu Abagun.
A search of records at the Cobb jail Wednesday did not show booking information for the four who were indicted, meaning they have likely not yet been arrested.
Police say employees split cash with fake landlords
Police say beginning in 2006, checks paid to Imoukhuede were made to a limited liability company, Grand Ventures, of which he is the sole registered agent. Cash given to Abass went through another limited liability company called Rocktech Property Management, later changed to Rocktech Companies, beginning in 2007.
Police also said Bowens and Brown found tenants in the city’s files who at one time received Section 8 subsidies but no longer were part of the program. The pair “specifically chose to reactivate tenants who were unemployed or had low incomes,” according to the indictment, to get a higher paying subsidy.
Police say the fraudulent accounts were then assigned to Imoukhuede and Abass, who received the federal money. Neither Imoukhuede nor Abass were actually landlords.
Imoukhuede and Abass are accused of keeping 40 percent of the payments and giving 60 percent to Bowens who allegedly split it with Brown.
The incident came to light when Daphne Bradwell, city housing director, noticed irregularities in payments made to landlords. She reported the issue to Jim Curtis, the city’s internal auditor, who alerted the Marietta Police Department.
Bradwell and Curtis declined to comment on Wednesday.
Bowens is also accused of falsely assigning her aunt as a Section 8 tenant in an Austell rental Bowens lived in, enabling herself to live in the home without paying rent.
Program could be absorbed
The city’s Section 8 program has in recent months been in the crosshairs of some council members who believe the department should be consolidated with a similar one operated by the independent Marietta Housing Authority.
Councilman Andy Morris has suggested the city would save money spent on administrative costs if the two programs were combined and operated by the authority, but Councilman Anthony Coleman has expressed concern about the fate of city employees who administer the federal housing vouchers.
Morris and Coleman did not return phone calls Wednesday.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the discussion over combining the departments is unrelated to the embezzlement investigation.
“It’s a heck of a coincidence,” Tumlin said.
He’s bothered by the theft allegations both because of the impact on the city and Section 8 tenants.
“Whatever the amount, whatever the reason, there’s several people who needed to have housing and were not afforded that opportunity,” Tumlin said.
The city is working closely with police and cooperating with the investigation, he said, and will look at ways to prevent theft from taking place.
“We’re looking at whatever ways we can tighten it up,” Tumlin said.