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GBI, Sheriff's Department round up HUD suspects

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, along with agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, spent Wednesday rounding up 18 locals suspected of defrauding an affordable housing program for the poor.

Organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, state and local officers attempted to serve 18 people in Dougherty County with warrants ranging from theft to making false statements, officials said.

Many of the individuals are believed to have defrauded the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program which is administered through the Georgia DCA and is meant to provide federal assistance to very low-income families or individuals, as well as the elderly or disabled.

"We appreciate the combined efforts of the HUD Office of Inspector General, GBI and DCA to combat housing fraud by arresting those that are violating the law and depriving those in need of affordable housing," HUD Southeast Regional Administrator Edward Jennings Jr. wrote in a press release.

The fraud involved in the 80 cases totaled about $1.1 million, which could be ordered to be repaid to HUD as prosecution advances on the individuals, HUD officials say.

With 18 suspects being sought in Dougherty County alone, officials here say that Albany by far had the highest number of fraud cases in the state.

Click here to see a list of those who have been arrested

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported Wednesday that Augusta-Richmond County had the next highest with nine people arrested. The paper wrote that 15,000 Georgians participate in the Section 8 program.

Called "Operation Clean Sweep," Wednesday's statewide roundup had managed to nab 48 by midday, with much of the remainder expected to be found in the coming days.

"The state and federal governments, as well as the people they serve, have a responsibility to ensure that federal funds for the Section 8 program go to those truly in need," DCA Assistant Commissioner for Rental Assistance Division Dennis Williams Jr. said.

While Wednesday's roundup was substantial, both state and federal officials are urging anyone with knowledge of ongoing fraud to call (800) 347-3735 or e-mail hotline@hudoig.gov.