A Honolulu woman was sentenced Monday to five and a half years in prison and ordered to pay over $400,000 in fines and restitution for defrauding a federal low-income housing program, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Chun Mei Tong, a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employee, was convicted of five counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft after a two-week jury trial last year.
The DOJ press release said that from 2014 to 2019, Tong used an alias to act as property manager and landlord for five properties she rented to Section 8 voucher holders.
Tong, 43, covered up her ownership of two of the properties and forged the signatures of the owners of three of the properties to ensure that all of the HUD funds paid to the landlord went directly to her company’s bank account.
At her sentencing Monday, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright said he was “troubled” by the “ease with which Ms. Tong lies,” particularly when she took the witness stand at trial. Seabright called Tong’s conduct and deception “brazen” and said she “went to great lengths to hide her involvement” in the scheme.
“My office will continue to combat fraud in federally funded programs from defendants like Tong, who use their position as government employees to defraud the government and vulnerable victims in our communities, and, in doing so, illicitly line their pockets with taxpayer funds,” U.S. District Attorney Kenji Price said in a written statement included in the press release.
Tong, and defendants like her, think they will find prosperity by taking advantage of their positions.”
Tong was sentenced to 66 months in prison, ordered to forfeit the $207,000 she made during the five-year scheme, and will have to pay an additional $207,000 in restitution.