Authorities arrest 15 people, seek 7 others, in nearly $1 million housing fraud scheme

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Authorities announced this afternoon that they have arrested and filed charges against 15 people for public assistance fraud worth nearly $1 million.

Another seven people are still being sought in what Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw called Operation Leap Fraud.

They said the people were arrested for numerous offenses including mortgage and insurance fraud, money laundering, threats or extortion, grand theft over $100,000, organized fraud over $50,000 and public assistance fraud.

The local agencies worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture to target people who had defrauded various Palm Beach County housing authorities and other agencies.

According to a statement, the people arrested, among other things, failed to disclose tenants and their criminal history, failed to disclose assets along with the commission of crimes in public housing.

"The aggregate value of benefits fraudulently obtained is $963,000.00," according to a statement released this afternoon.

Those arrested and charged are Michael Diaz, Sandra Janell Duque, Roy Raul Gordon, Bernedette Hutchins, Lavett Jones, Claudette Lattie (UPDATE: Prosecutors dropped the charges against Lattie on Aug. 14, 2012, and the records were expunged, according to the clerk’s office records.), Verna M. Leach, Decheryl, Marshall, Lourdes Nichols, Kenol Paul, Felix A. Perez, Jacqueline Lagay Robinson, Trudy Robinson, Chiquitta Lashun Salter and Trisketa Thomas. Their ages and hometowns were not immediately available.

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