Howard County authorities are prosecuting two women they say lied to obtain $26,000 in federally subsidized housing aid over a three-year period.
The women, 36-year-old Angela Tart and 40-year-old Shuron Rhodes, are the latest in a steady trickle of individuals charged with defrauding the program.
Housing officials said Friday that, on average, investigators have been finding three or four such cases a year to turn over for prosecution.
"I would like to think that most of our clients are honest and abide by the rules and regulations," said Leonard Vaughan, the executive director of the Howard County Housing Commission. In both new cases, which were filed last month, the women are accused of lying about their jobs, income and assets, prosecutors and county officials said.
Prosecutors said each woman said she did not have a job. But officials say Tart, of the 8800 block of Lincoln St. in Savage, is a Prince George's County school teacher.
And Rhodes is employed in Columbia, officials said. Court papers list her address on Lasada Drive in Columbia, but a news release issued by the county says she now lives in Baltimore.
Tart is alleged to have defrauded the program out of about $10,000, while Rhodes is alleged to have gotten about $16,000, Assistant State's Attorney Lara Weathersbee said Friday.
Both are charged with felony theft.
In past cases, defendants have received probation and been ordered to repay the public housing aid.
When one person gets money for which he or she is not eligible, the pot shrinks for those who truly need the aid, Vaughan said.
The county has more than 2,000 subsidized units, Vaughan said.
Vaughan said Friday that the county plans to continue to press for a state law that would make attempted housing fraud a crime.
County officials asked the state legislature for such a law during this year's session, but the bill did not pass, Vaughan said.
In some cases, he said, applicants are elaborate in their deception, creating computer-generated documents.
He told of one case in which an applicant created a "lease," with an address at Mailboxes Etc.