Shantel Bowens, Debbie Bailey and Babatunde “Babs” Abass have been arraigned on charges of stealing funds from the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as “Section 8,” which provides rental assistance to low-income families. They were indicted on March 25.
Abass is also known by the aliases Babatunde Abagun and Simiyu Abagun.
A man accused in the embezzlement, Tunji “Chris” Imoukhuede, will be arraigned later.
Bowens and Bailey are former employees of the city of Marietta’s Department of Development Services, which administers the Section 8 program. Both resigned their positions last summer.
They are accused of conspiring with Abass and Imoukhuede to falsify city records to indicate Imoukhuede and Abass were landlords renting to Section 8 tenants and should receive a federal paycheck.
Authorities say the scheme took place from January 2011 through June 2013. During that period, Marietta’s Housing Choice Voucher Program received more than $4 million annually in federal funds.
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, police said. 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.
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.
“These defendants stole federal funds designed to help families afford safe and decent housing,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a prepared statement. “In addition, the two defendants who were employed by the city of Marietta violated the public trust by abusing their positions in order to divert public money for their own use.”
The investigation is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was created in November 2009 to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.
Assistant United States Attorney Shanya J. Dingle is prosecuting the case.
“The city of Marietta takes our responsibility to be good shepherds of federal funds very seriously,” said Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn in a prepared statement, adding the police department worked with local and federal agencies to investigate the case before handing it over to the U.S. attorney’s office.