A former employee for the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency was sentenced to 33 months in prison today for stealing more than $944,000 in federal funds that were intended for use as rent subsidies for low-income families, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today. She stole money orders made out to the state Housing Trust Fund Corp. on hundreds of occasions between 2004 and 2011, writing her own name over the letters “HFTC” and depositing the money into personal bank accounts, he said.
Agnes Bernier, 55, of the Bronx, pleaded guilty in May to one count of theft of government funds and one count of bank fraud for stealing from the Section 8 housing-subsidy program. In addition to the prison term, she will have to serve three years of supervised release, pay $944,000 in restitution to the state’s Housing Trust Fund Corp., forfeit $944,000 to the United States and pay a $200 special-assessment fee.
“Agnes Bernier brazenly defrauded the State of New York by stealing nearly $1 million in precious federal funding meant for the Section 8 housing program, a crucial resource for residents who need the subsidies in order to afford a place to live,” Bharara said in a statement. “Today’s sentence ensures that she will pay for her crimes.”
The state Inspector General’s office assisted with the investigation.
“Agnes Bernier’s sentence should send a strong message to anyone who is inclined to use their public position to break the law,” Acting New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said in a statement. “Ms. Bernier egregiously abused her position to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from agencies charged with providing housing subsidies to those in need.”