Former Penns Grove Councilman accused of stealing federal rent subsidy

Former Penns Grove Councilman Carl Washington Jr. has been charged with stealing $14,385 by fraudulently under-reporting his income in order to secure and pay reduced rent for a federally subsidized apartment.

Washington, 48, of Salem County, New Jersey, was charged today by complaint-summons with third-degree theft by deception, following a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) Corruption Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG).

Former Penns Grove Councilman Carl Washington Jr.

The investigation began when OPIA learned that Penns Grove Gardens apartments had sought to evict Washington in January 2019 due to their belief that he sublet his federally subsidized Section 8 apartment to another individual, who was arrested for drug offenses at the apartment, according to state Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck.

Investigators from OPIA and HUD-OIG further learned from the property management company for Penns Grove Gardens that Washington allegedly falsely reported his income.

If he had reported his full income, he would have exceeded the maximum income level and been ineligible for the subsidized housing.

Based on his annual income as a Penns Grove councilman, which was the only income Washington reported to the property management company in required certifications, Washington’s total rent obligation for the apartment in Penns Grove Gardens in 2017 and 2018 was $92 per month.

However, Washington also had income from two other jobs during each of those years that he failed to report. Had he truthfully reported his total income, including the income from those two other jobs, his monthly rent would have increased to $494 in 2017, and $760 in 2018.

The total alleged fraud is approximately $14,385, which represents the difference between the actual amount paid by Washington and what he would have paid if he had not allegedly provided false information.

“Section 8 housing assistance is meant to lift up low-income families by subsidizing rent, and we will not tolerate fraudulent acts that undermine the program by diverting needed funds,” said Bruck. “We’re committed to working with HUD’s Office of Inspector General to stop fraud and ensure this assistance reaches those who truly qualify.”

“When we uncover evidence of fraud or misappropriation involving government programs such as Section 8, we stand ready to work with strong government partners like HUD’s Office of Inspector General to investigate and charge anyone who has committed a crime,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General is committed to vigorously investigating any elected official who fraudulently receives HUD funds meant for low-income households in need of housing assistance. As a former elected official, Mr. Washington selfishly chose to take advantage of a program designed to help some of the very people he once represented,” said HUD-OIG Special Agent in Charge Shawn Rice. “Mr. Washington took advantage of the public’s trust and this type of conduct is unacceptable. HUD-OIG and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding elected officials accountable for abusing government assistance programs intended for those in most need.”

In December 2019, Washington was charged with stealing $8,200 from the Clean Communities Program, and his defeat in a November 2019 re-election contest resulted in a drawn-out court battle after he was appointed to a seat on the Penns Grove governing body that became vacant when another councilman resigned and the Republicans sued.

Bruck credited detectives and attorneys of the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the direction of OPIA Executive Director Eicher, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shawn Rice, with conducting the investigation leading to this criminal charge.

Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Gilmore is prosecuting Washington for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.

Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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