According to an Indictment unsealed on January 19, 2012, in federal court in Manhattan, NY, Agnes Bernier, 52, Bronx, NY, was an employee at New York State Homes and Community Renewal (“NYHCR”), where she was responsible for, among other things, processing federal “Section 8” housing subsidy refund payments to New York State’s Housing Trust Fund Corporation (“HTFC”).
HTFC was established to create low-income housing through loans and grants that rehabilitate existing housing or the construction of new units.
According to the Indictment, from 2004 through 2011, Bernier abused her NYCHR position to steal over $944,000 in refund payments payable to the HTFC. On hundreds of occasions, Bernier allegedly wrote her name over the letters “HTFC” on money orders payable to that corporation, and then deposited the money orders into her personal bank accounts. For example, in December 2011, Bernier deposited into her personal bank account, $7,500 in stolen funds obtained from her falsification of money orders.
In commenting on Bernier’s alleged crime, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted that there were “two sets of victims – the people who rely on this money to help them secure housing, and the taxpayers whose dollars fund the program itself.”
Bernier was arrested on January 19, 2012, and is awaiting arraignment. The United States Attorney’s Office froze two bank accounts controlled by Bernier that are believed to contain proceeds from her crime. The Indictment charges Bernier with one count of theft of U.S. government property and one count of bank fraud. If convicted, Bernier faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the theft count and 30 years on the fraud count.
Note: The charges contained in the Indictment are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.