01/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/21/2021 15:45
ATLANTA - Camelia Revels, a former case manager at HOPE Atlanta, and Katrise Jones, a property agent, have pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging them with conspiring to steal approximately $124,000 in federal funds intended to help homeless veterans.
'The defendants betrayed the trust of veterans who came to them for help,' said Acting U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. 'The victims are men and women who sacrificed for their country and deserve more than being taken advantage of for personal greed.'
David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) stated, 'VA OIG's continued oversight of VA's grant programs, which are used to provide housing for at-risk homeless veterans, is one of the agency's highest priorities because it safeguards the integrity of VA's programs designed to end veteran homelessness. As detailed in the charging document, the defendants' fraud scheme adversely impacted the well-being of homeless veterans, their families, and the programs designed to assist them during a time of need.'
'This is a case of financial predators that actively sought to pilfer federal housing funds fittingly dedicated to assist our nation's homeless veterans,' said Wyatt Achord, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. 'It is our mission to tirelessly root out such individuals with the intent to willfully undermine federal housing programs dedicated toward improving the quality of life of those who devotedly served in our country's armed services.'
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Christine, the charges and other information presented in court: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provide funds through a variety of programs, including the Supportive Services for Veterans program (SSVF), in order to assist homeless veterans. SSVF monies are in turn provided as grants to various organizations, including HOPE Atlanta (a/k/a Traveler's Aid of Metropolitan Atlanta).
HOPE Atlanta is a non-profit organization dedicated to combatting homelessness that has served metro-Atlanta for more than 100 years. Between approximately October 2013 and November 2015, Revels was employed at HOPE Atlanta as a case manager for the SSVF program. As part of her duties, Revels was responsible for confirming a veteran's eligibility to participate in the SSVF program, assisting veterans in finding suitable housing, and preparing the SSVF vouchers to secure issuance of funds. Although Revels did not have final approval over SSVF vouchers, she provided all the relevant information to her supervisor, including the name of the vendor to whom the check would be issued on behalf of a veteran.
Among the vendors Revels provided to her supervisor as the payee were companies that were owned and operated by Jones, including Stratford Corporate Realty, Strategic Consultants, and Reserve at Bay Bridge. Jones was supposed to act as a 'property agent,' who would assist the veterans find suitable housing. In other words, rather than listing the rental property as the payee, Revels provided one of Jones's companies.
In December 2014, HOPE Atlanta learned that Jones was not making rental payments on behalf of veterans who received SSVF funds and directed Revels to no longer work with her. Revels ignored this directive but continued her scheme with Jones. In particular, Revels did not disclose to HOPE Atlanta that the 'vendors' receiving SSVF funds were various entities controlled and operated by Jones. As part of the conspiracy, Revels and Jones in fact opened a joint bank account in the name of Strategic Consultants-one of Jones's companies-in which stolen SSVF funds were deposited. The scheme lasted until November 2015 when HOPE Atlanta learned that Revels had continued to work with Jones and that Jones's companies had continued to receive SSVF funds that were not being used to help homeless veterans.
Separately, Jones also stole HUD-VA Supportive Housing funds (VASH) funds from the Marietta Housing Authority (MHA) in August and September 2015. HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between HUD and VA that combines HUD rental assistance (Housing Choice Vouchers) with VA supportive services to help veterans and their families who are homeless. To receive the VASH funds, an individual must represent that they are the owner of the property to be rented or a registered agent of the property owner. MHA also required the applicant to show that the mortgage payments for the property were up to date (or otherwise the owner held free and clear title to the property). MHA imposed these latter requirements to avoid placing veterans in properties that were subsequently foreclosed upon.
Jones falsely misrepresented to MHA that she was a registered agent of a large, legitimate property management company in order to participate in the VASH program. As a result of Jones's misrepresentations to MHA, she received approximately $3,000 on behalf of several veterans for rental payments but never made the payments.
Sentencing for Camelia Revels, 50, of Hiram, Georgia, is scheduled for April 6, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. Sentencing for Katrise Jones, 47, of Lexington, South Carolina, is scheduled for April 15, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. Both sentencings will be held before U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen.
This case is being investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Inspector General-Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Cobb County Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex R. Sistla is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Affairs Office at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.