(Updated) Three ex-housing employees get jail time in $500K theft case

Staff Report

The former Morgan City Housing Authority director and two other former employees were sentenced Monday to jail time for a conspiracy related to theft of over $500,000. A fourth former employee received five years of probation, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a news release.

Former Executive Director Charles E. Spann, 78, of Kingsport, Tennessee, was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay $111,657.47 restitution on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Spann resigned as the authority’s director in June 2013.

Ex-Housing Manager Tori D. Johnson, 38, of Morgan City, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $100,040.23 restitution on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Johnson resigned from the housing authority before Spann did.

Former Accounting Tech Diana L. Pace, 64, of Morgan City, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $137,660.72 restitution on one count of theft of government money.

Another former housing manager, Sandra L. Greene, 59, of Morgan City, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $165,405.46 restitution on one count of misprision of a felony. U.S. District Judge Donald Walter presided over the hearings.

Pace and Greene, who were both classified state civil service employees, resigned from their positions with the housing authority at the end of April. On April 7, the State Civil Service Commission had approved suspending Pace and Greene without pay.

According to the April 22 guilty pleas, the defendants received a total of $514,764.14 in bonus payments to which they were not entitled from 2007 to 2013. In 2007, a one-time bonus for work performed in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was granted.

After the one-time bonuses were sent to all employees of the housing authority, Johnson requested from Spann that she, Spann and the other two employees continue to receive bonuses. Johnson wrote false justifications for the bonuses, and Spann signed off on them, the release said.

The bonuses were not approved by the civil service board or the Morgan City Housing Authority Board. Spann received $111,657.47, Johnson received $100,040.23, Greene received $165.405.46 and Pace received $137,660.72 to which they were not entitled, the release said.

The U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Investigations, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly P. Uebinger and Robert F. Moore prosecuted the case.

A December 2014 Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report said the Morgan City Housing Authority paid almost $700,000 in improper bonuses and wages in excess of what state civil service rules allowed between 2007 and 2014.

On Feb. 18, Spann, Johnson, Pace and Greene were indicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The indictment also named Pace and Greene in 14 counts of theft of government money. Johnson was indicted on 12 counts of theft of government money, while Spann was indicted on five counts of theft of government money.

Spann, Johnson and Pace are scheduled to report for incarceration Aug. 22, according to the U.S. District Clerk of Court’s Office. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will assign the three defendants to a jail facility.

Current Morgan City Housing Authority Executive Director Clarence Robinson, who has served as the authority’s director since July 2013, said he is happy the case has been resolved so the authority can move forward and continue to focus on preserving its integrity.

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