RALEIGH, N.C. – A correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Correction in Bertie County has pled guilty in court to charges stemming from what officials said was a COVID-19 fraud scheme.
According to a media release from the office of District Attorney Michael Easley, Sean Tracy Dillard, 55, pled guilty pursuant to a criminal information, to the theft of government funds for fraudulently submitting North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (NC HOPE) loan applications for emergency rental assistance. As part of his fraud scheme, the defendant submitted fictitious tenant lease agreements for multiple properties in Bertie County as part of his NC HOPE loan applications.
He faces up to 10 years in prison.
On March 27, 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who were suffering the economic effects caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) programs as flexible federal funding to states and localities earmarked to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) administers the Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) program as a source of flexible federal funding for economic and community development, as well as to direct long-term recovery funding to states and localities in response to disasters and emergencies.
The State of North Carolina’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (“NCORR”), a division of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, utilized federal funds made available in the CARES Act to assist North Carolina renters stay in their homes during COVID-19 by preventing evictions and the loss of utility services. The NC HOPE program, utilized an initial $51.5 million allocation of CDBG funds from the CARES Act to provide housing and utility assistance. The State of North Carolina also received CRF funds from the CARES Act, of which $66 million was allocated to pay administrative costs associated with the NC HOPE program.
Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after United States Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones, Jr., accepted the plea. Sentencing will occur before United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan later this year. The FBI is leading the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Ontjes is prosecuting the case.