EXCLUSIVE: Federal probe of Hawaii public housing tenants targets fraud

Published: Nov. 11, 2014 at 9:12 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2014 at 10:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal investigation is underway into whether tenants at 68 federal housing projects across the state are violating the rules and taking advantage of taxpayers, sources told Hawaii News Now.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, known as HUD, began an Inspector General's investigation into tenants at federal housing projects across Hawaii several months ago, sources said.

There are about 5,500 federal housing units in Hawaii, from large projects such as Mayor Wright Housing in the Kalihi-Palama area to small complexes like Kauhale Ohana in Waimanalo.

Sources said federal agents have already interviewed public housing tenants and found some of them are in violation of rules, such as lying about their income to qualify for federal housing or failing to disclose criminal backgrounds. Others may be receiving a federal housing subsidy when they are not entitled to it, sources said.

Hakim Ouansafi, the executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority which oversees tenants in federal housing projects, did not confirm the investigation.

But Ouansafi told Hawaii News Now by phone Tuesday, "We are committed to making sure we bring to justice anyone who wants to defraud the government."

Sources said tenants found violating the rules could face not only eviction from housing projects but also could face federal prosecution for crimes such as fraud or theft.

The federal government has more investigative resources at its disposal than the state that are helpful in cases like this. FBI agents, federal criminal databases and federal tax records can all be used to determine the public housing residents' criminal backgrounds and income.

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