Grandmother and Granddaughter Appear In Court On Mail Fraud Charges

Two Defendants Allegedly Defrauded the Department of Housing and Urban Development of Over $126,000 During Eight-Year Scheme

SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – United States Attorney Scott N. Schools announced that two defendants, LAUTON JOSHUA (a/k/a Lauton Wells, a/k/a Lauton Trumbo, a/k/a Lauton Joshua Wells), 40, and her grandmother and former landlord HELEN LOWE, 78, will make their initial appearance on federal mail fraud charges on Tuesday, October 30, 2007, at 2 pm, before the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. District Court Judge.

A federal grand jury in San Francisco charged Ms. Joshua, of Lincoln, California, and Ms. Lowe, of San Francisco, California, on August 23, 2007 with ten counts of committing mail fraud. The indictment alleges that, from1998 through 2006, Ms. Joshua and Ms. Lowe fraudulently received subsidized housing payments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), despite being ineligible to receive those funds. According to the indictment, although Ms. Joshua was employed and received a salary from the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2006, she fraudulently submitted income information to the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) that reflected an employment other than the U.S. Army and a lower annual salary in order to remain eligible for federal housing assistance designated for very low income families. The indictment further alleges that Ms. Lowe was Ms. Joshua’s landlord, and that Ms. Joshua and Ms. Lowe fraudulent claimed to SFHA that they were not related to one another, despite the fact that Ms. Joshua is Ms. Lowe’s granddaughter. The HUD housing assistance program prohibits family members from receiving housing benefits when renting to one another. Ms. Joshua also allegedly failed to disclose to the SFHA that she and Ms. Lowe purchased and jointly owned two homes in Suisun City and Lincoln, California. The house in Suisun City was purchased in 1998 for $151,000 and the house in Lincoln was purchased in 2006 for $530,000. As a result of their alleged scheme, Ms. Joshua and Ms. Lowe received over $126,000 in federal housing subsidies to which they were not entitled.

These charges are the result of an investigation the FedRent Initiative launched by the HUD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to ensure that federal employees receiving housing benefits from HUD properly disclosed their wages and assets to HUD. The FedRent Initiative was launched in order to uphold public trust and integrity in federal employees. Ms. Joshua is the second federal employee to be charged in the Northern District of California under this Initiative.

Ms. Joshua and Ms. Lowe are not in custody at this time.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, is 20 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, 3 years supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. The United States may also seek forfeiture of funds related to the fraud.

An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Ms. Joshua and Ms. Lowe must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Erika R. Frick is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Wilson Wong. Special Agent James Luu of HUD OIG is the agent investigating the case. The prosecution is the result of a 14-month investigation by HUD OIG.

Further Information:

Case #: CR 07-0555 WHA

A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.

Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Natalya LaBauve at (415) 436-7055 or by email at [email protected]

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