Former Caseworker for the Dallas Project Reconnect Pleads Guilty to Witness Tampering, Making a False Statement to HUD, and Deprivation Under Color of Law
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 08, 2014|
DALLAS—Lawrence Hart, 37, appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renée Harris Toliver and pleaded guilty to a felony and misdemeanor Information charging various offenses stemming from his role as a caseworker for an outreach program that is managed by the city of Dallas’s Housing Department. The announcement was made today by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, Hart pleaded guilty to one count of witness tampering, one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for the witness tampering count and a maximum statutory sentence of one year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine for the false statement count and for the deprivation of rights count. He will remain on bond pending sentencing, set for July 14, 2014, by U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey.
According to documents filed in the case, in 2012 and 2013, Hart was a caseworker for Project Reconnect, a HUD-funded outreach program managed by the city of Dallas’s Housing Department. Project Reconnect provides re-entry case management and community referrals to help non-violent offenders on parole settle back into the Dallas community. One of the main components of Project Reconnect is to provide housing to eligible individuals. As the program was being applied at the time, to be eligible for Project Reconnect, an individual must reside in Dallas, have felony conviction, be 18 years or older, be currently on parole or probation, and meet HUD low- to moderate-income guidelines.
Hart admitted that in July 2012, he arranged for “Person A” to sign a lease for an apartment in Carrollton, under the Project Reconnect program, even though Person A did not qualify for the program at that time. The apartment’s rent was $980 per month, and Project Reconnect was responsible for $975 of that amount, and Person A was responsible for $5 per month. Hart admitted that while he worked for the city of Dallas’s Housing Authority, he was in fact the sole occupant of that apartment, and Person A never resided there. Hart further admitted that he submitted documentation to HUD reflecting that Person A was the sole occupant.
When HUD, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and the FBI began investigating fraudulent activity related to Project Reconnect, they interviewed Hart about his involvement in Project Reconnect and his potential criminal activity. After that interview, Hart contacted Person A and instructed Person A to lie to a DPD detective and FBI special agent by telling them that Person A lived in the Carrollton apartment.
In late 2012, according to the factual resume filed in the case, Hart met “Person B” and fast-tracked Person B through the Project Reconnect program. While Person B was qualified for the program, Hart propositioned her for sex and expedited her placement in an apartment because she agreed to have sex with him. In January 2013, Person B ended her intimate relationship with Hart. Acting under color of law, Hart removed her from the HUD-subsidized apartment, wilfully depriving her of the right to be free from discrimination in the terms, condition, and privileges of rental of a dwelling because of her sex.
The DPD, HUD, and FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin is prosecuting.