A federal jury found today a 43-year-old ex-federal housing department worker guilty of wire fraud and identity theft.
The Honolulu woman, Chun Mei Tong schemed to use an alias and forge signatures to rent out properties under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program (known as the Section 8 program), while she worked at HUD overseeing the Section 8 program.
The verdict came after a seven-day trial before Chief District Judge J. Michael Seabright.
Tong is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 16.
She faces a mandatory two-year prison term for aggravated identity theft and up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud. She was found guilty of five counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Kenji Price said the Section 8 program is HUD’s major program for helping low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford housing in the private rental market in the local community.
The program is administered locally by public housing authorities, he said in a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Hawaii.
Information presented at trial showed Tong directed funds to her company from 2014 to 2019 for five Section 8 rentals on Oahu.
She received about $207,000 from HUD as part of the scheme, using an alias, “Debbie Kim,” to act as a property manager and landlord for five properties she rented to Section 8 voucher holders.
She posed as Debbie Kim, submitted comments to local public housing authorities for rental approval and payments of HUD funds.
Tong covered up her ownership of two properties. She forged signatures of the owners of three properties to ensure all the HUD funds paid to the landlord went straight to her bank account.
Tong was hired by HUD in 2005 and worked at the Honolulu field office until she resigned in November 2015.
HUD employees are prohibited from participating in the Section 8 program. and engaging in the business of real estate.
Tong failed to disclose her involvement in multiple real estate companies or aliases used in connection with those companies to anyone who worked with the local housing authorities or HUD.
HUD’s Office of Inspector General led the investigation.