Former Bradenton Housing Authority Executive Director Pleads Guilty to Theft of Government Funds
TAMPA, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Wenston DeSue (44, Bradenton) today pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, from on or about January 1, 2006, until September 19, 2013, DeSue was employed as the Executive Director of the Bradenton Housing Authority (“BHA”). The BHA is a local housing authority agency of the City of Bradenton. Each year, the BHA receives $10,000 or more in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).
An investigation by the HUD, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that between September 2010 and September 2013, DeSue was significantly absent from the BHA on a routine basis, engaged in non-BHA activities during work hours, and failed to take annual or sick leave for those absences. Despite being absent from the BHA much of the time, he accepted his regular salary. DeSue typically arrived at the BHA at least one and a half to three hours late each day, took extended multi-hour lunches, ran personal errands during the work day, and left early from the BHA—all without taking some form of leave. In addition, he spent personal time with the BHA Project Director, Stephany West, with whom he was romantically involved. On numerous occasions, the two spent personal time together during the workday when they should have been working or on some form of leave. On some days, DeSue failed to show up to work at all, yet he still collected payment from the BHA as if he had been at work.
During the period of September 2010 through September 2012, DeSue was absent and engaged in non-BHA activities at least 30 percent of the time. He engaged in the same behavior approximately 60 percent of the time from September 2012 through September 19, 2013. In total, DeSue stole and converted to his own use $204,756.43 from the BHA by taking salary, benefits, and bonuses that he had not earned and to which he was not entitled. He stole another $71,543.60 by cashing out unused annual and sick leave, which he should have otherwise used while spending work hours attending to personal affairs. Thus, DeSue’s actions caused a total loss to the BHA of approximately $276,300.03.
Stephany West pleaded guilty to theft of federal funds on March 20, 2015, and is awaiting sentencing.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Bradenton Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer L. Peresie and Simon A. Gaugush.