June 24, 2023
A Mount Laurel woman pled guilty to signing off on checks using government money meant to support low-income housing for her business while giving thousands of dollars to a family member.
Traci Willis, a former Camden Housing Authority, admitted to taking more than $150,000 designed to subsidize the rent of low-income tenants. The money went towards her real estate business and to a family member that is a landlord, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced Friday.
Willis entered a plea agreement recommending probation after serving up to 364 days in the Camden County Jail. She also is banned from serving public office for life.
"A job in public service is not an opportunity to inappropriately cash in. This defendant used her control of taxpayer funds to dispense public dollars for the benefit of herself, her company, and a family member," Platkin said.
Willis served as the director of the Camden Housing Authority's Housing Choice Voucher Program from 2000 until 2019, overseeing and approving the distribution of Section 8 money to landlords and property management companies.
From July 2015 through May 2019, Willis' office signed off on more than 30 checks for a combined $65,000 to her family member. She also entered into low-income housing contracts with her company and issued 35 checks for $93,000.
Willis was fired in 2019; however, an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability determined she was still listed as the registered owner on all company filings with the state, and funds were being deposited into bank accounts she had control of. She tried challenging her termination by presenting fake paperwork that made it seem like she had transferred ownership to someone else.
As a part of her job conditions, Wills was barred from engaging in practices that benefit a family member, business partner, or herself.
"We take conflicts of interest and other frauds committed against HUD, our public housing authorities, and our rent subsidy programs seriously and will continue to work with our state and local partners to protect the integrity of funds dedicated to supporting low- and extremely low-income families," Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in charge of HUD Office of Inspector General said.