Detroit — The former head of the St. Clair Housing Commission embezzled more than $336,000 in low-income housing funds and spent the cash on booze, beauty products, bedroom furniture and homes for her family, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Former Executive Director Lorena Loren, 55, was charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud during an eight-year scheme that benefited and involved relatives, including her husband and son, according to federal court records.
Since 2008, Loren fraudulently used the housing commission’s credit cards to make $166,000 worth of purchases at Amazon, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, falsified lease agreements for low-income housing and used the money to pay for her own relatives’ homes, the government alleged.
“Holy crap,” St. Clair Mayor Bill Cedar Jr. told The Detroit News. “I guess you never know what’s going on with people.”
Loren was charged in a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is expected. She could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.
If convicted, Loren could face at least five years in federal prison.
Loren was charged one year after she retired abruptly, the mayor said. She moved to southeast Georgia and bought a $325,000 custom-built house in October, according to public records.
The home is far from low-income housing. The five-bedroom, 2,858-square-foot home features a salt-water pool, 24-foot ceilings, walk-in closets, a game room and detached man cave.
Loren was appointed executive director in 2003 and started stealing from the poor five years later, prosecutors alleged.
She fraudulently obtained housing-assistance payments for properties in which she had a proprietary interest with family members or for the benefit of family members, according to court records.
She falsified lease agreements and money intended to help low-income residents afford apartments was used to rent a home for her son, Ryan Loren, prosecutors alleged.
Lorena Loren also told relatives to establish bank accounts so federal subsidy payments could be deposited and spent for their personal use, including to rent a home in Florida, according to court records.
She lied while claiming her son-in-law was the landlord of a rental property for low-income residents, prosecutors alleged. The property turned out to be Lorena Loren’s home in Port Austin, Michigan, according to court records.
Her son-in-law, Jaime Johnson, deposited the money into a bank account he controlled with Lorena Loren’s husband, Brian, the government alleged.
The $166,000 worth of credit card purchases included adult and infant clothing, furniture, appliances, mattresses, food, beauty supplies, medications and other household items, according to court records.
The money was supposed to maintain Palmer Park Manor, the commission’s low-income public housing facility, prosecutors alleged.