Former South Bend Housing Authority director, others charged

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The former executive director of the South Bend Housing Authority could be housed in prison in the future.

A federal indictment revealed today lists multiple charges against multiple defendants regarding millions of dollars’ worth of alleged financial impropriety.

At the top of the list is 58-year-old Tonya Robinson who served as executive director from 2014 to 2019.

It’s alleged that Robinson had a net loss of at least $600,000 at local casinos during her time on the job.

Court documents also suggest she made more than $655,000 worth of large cash deposits to her personal bank account during the same period.

Bank and wire fraud charges have also been filed against two additional former South Bend Housing Authority employees—Tyreisha Robinson and Albert Smith.

It’s alleged the conspiracy also involved Archie Robinson, III and Ronald Taylor, Jr. They’re contractors accused of submitting bogus business records and fraudulent quotes.

The scheme allegedly involved the creation of fraudulent Housing Authority payment checks for work that never occurred.

The contractors would then kick back a portion of the proceeds in cash to Housing Authority employees.

Court documents contend that over the life of the scheme Archie Robinson, III collected more than $3 million as the owner of KTR Cleaning and Renovations.

“When I worked there we were doing units and units weren’t done. He was just getting cash, getting paid for it. I was like, ‘Okay, the unit isn’t done yet, why is he getting paid?’” said Gary Giger.

About $1.3 million went to Ronald Taylor, Jr., the owner of a business called Taylor Made Handyman.

Court documents further allege that in 2016, the South Bend Housing Authority’s monthly property maintenance expenses averaged $277.00 per unit, compared to just $70 per unit for similarly situated housing authorities.

“This is a smear. This is an insult and it’s also an indictment on the leadership of this community...Six million dollars can go a long way with housing and these residents did not deserve this type of treatment...There’s a number of things that went wrong.  You have a mayor who presides over the appointments for the board and you also have the board who is supposed to preside the finances of the property,” said South Bend Common Council Member Henry Davis.

In a statement Mayor James Mueller said in part, “These charges of fraud and corruption are deeply troubling, and our residents are suffering today due to the past failed leadership at the Housing Authority.”

“When Mrs. Robinson was in it was just so much bad business, so much bullying in the office that she did what she wanted to do. That’s why I think there wasn’t too much said and nobody went to look at the books,” Giger said.

From the US Attorney’s Office:

Five individuals have been charged by way of an 11-count indictment, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tina L. Nommay.

The following individuals were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; 6 counts of bank fraud; and 2 counts of wire fraud: Tonya Robinson, 58; Albert Smith, 44; Tyreisha Robinson, 30; Archie Robinson III, 60; and Ronald Taylor, Jr, 42; all of South Bend. Tonya Robinson, Albert Smith, and Tyreisha Robinson were also charged with one count of federal program theft. Tyreisha Robinson was also charged with theft of government money.

According to documents in this case, Tonya Robinson was the former Executive Director of the South Bend Housing Authority (HASB) from approximately 2014 to 2019. Albert Smith and Tyreisha Robinson are former employees at the HASB. Archie Robinson and Ronald Taylor are owners of contracting businesses hired by the HASB to do contracting work.

The HASB provides housing opportunities and services to the South Bend community, managing more than 800 public housing residential units. The HASB had an annual contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development from which it receives several hundred thousand dollars annually in assistance from the federal government. As Executive Director, Tonya Robinson was the primary person responsible for the overall day-to-day operations of the HASB.

It is alleged that all five defendants conspired to defraud and obtain money belonging to the HASB by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises for their personal use and benefit. The scheme is alleged to involve the creation of fraudulent HASB payment checks for contracting work that had not actually occurred; the contractors cashing and depositing the HASB payment checks while knowing that the work had not actually occurred; and the contractors kicking back a portion of the money from the HASB payment checks to employees at the HASB, including Tonya Robinson and Albert Smith.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that an indictment is merely an allegation, and that all persons are presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty in court.

If convicted, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the judge after a consideration of federal statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Luke N. Reilander.

Statement from South Bend Mayor James Mueller:

“These charges of fraud and corruption are deeply troubling, and our residents are suffering today due to the past failed leadership at the Housing Authority. Although we have a lot of work to do, the new Housing Authority team under the leadership of Dr. Catherine Lamberg has already taken steps to restore trust and make improvements for our residents.”

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