Amy Belz was sentenced to 16 months in prison today for stealing $232,000 from the Parma Public Housing Agency. (See full story below.)
“This defendant lined her pockets with nearly a quarter of a million dollars that was meant to help poor people,” U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a public statement today. “Public employees who steal from taxpayers will be held accountable for their actions.”
Original story published May 11:
When former Parma Public Housing Agency Director Lev Kulchytsky stepped down in February, word around the streets was that he had been overseeing a messy operation. A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development review of his office revealed that he had lost control of the internal structure, confirming suspicions first brought up when Kulchytsky reported a theft scheme in his office last year.
HUD found broad patterns of abuse of federal grant funds. Sources told us earlier this year that the theft amount exceeded $100,000, but today we learned that Amy Belz, 34, had actually stolen $232,000 from the agency.
“This defendant is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars that was meant to be used to help people obtain housing,” U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a press release today. “Public employees who steal from taxpayers will be held accountable for their actions.”
His office outlined the scheme: "Belz made the checks out to herself, but typed vendor names on the carbon copies in the Parma Public Housing Agency check registers. Belz then created false invoices from these legitimate Parma Public Housing Agency vendors, attached them to the false carbon copies, and placed them in the Parma Public Housing Agency files to make it appear that the vendor was paid for work, knowing that such was never actually ordered or completed, according to the information."
Parma Public Housing owns and manages 60 units at Chevybrook Estates on Chevrolet Boulevard and administers 742 public housing vouchers in Parma. In its lack of oversight, the agency has fallen out of compliance with HUD regulations and misappropriation of federal grant funds, to say nothing of the theft. The report did find that the public housing agency had been improving in recent years, based on capital fund health and other indicators.
The public housing agency in Parma has a long history of bad news, trailing all the way back to 1981’s U.S. vs. City of Parma, which found the city “had engaged in a number of acts which had the purpose and effect of maintaining Parma as a segregated community in violation of the [Fair Housing] Act [of 1968].”
Mayor Tim DeGeeter appointed the former director of Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's Housing Choice Program, Priscilla Pointer-Hicks, to serve as interim director of the public housing agency.