Washington Ex-Housing Official Charged after Buying Oklahoma Property with Allegedly Stolen Funds

Mar 4, 2020

Credit Whitney Bryen-Oklahoma Watch

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The former finance director of a public housing authority in Washington state has been indicted on federal charges that she stole nearly $7 million from the agency.

The four-count wire fraud indictment was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, a day after Cova Campbell was arrested in Redbird, Oklahoma. The Pierce County Housing Authority fired Campbell last August after the state auditor uncovered financial irregularities.

In a report in December, the auditor’s office said Campbell and her husband had stolen $6.9 million since 2016 and used the money to buy property in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, among other things. The auditor reported the findings to the FBI.

The Pierce County Housing Authority has a budget of $32 million — a mix of state, federal and private money, which it uses to provide affordable housing for more than 4,000 low-income people each year.

“At a time when we are scrambling to fund housing for those who are unsheltered, it is appalling that this money went to pay for cars, vacations, home remodeling, and purchases from gaming websites,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a news release.

The indictment said Campbell made transfers of as much as $500,000 from Pierce County Housing Authority accounts to her own bank accounts. She was also accused of submitting false invoices to the housing authority and making them appear to be from an outside vendor.

Campbell made an initial appearance in federal court in Oklahoma on Monday. She was released from custody with orders to report to federal court in Tacoma, prosecutors said.

No attorney had made an appearance on her behalf in the criminal case.

The auditor’s report said that in a recorded deposition, in a written statement and in an interview with investigators that Campbell had admitted the theft.

The housing authority has sued Campbell and her husband in Pierce County Superior Court, accusing them of using those funds for personal purchases.

In October, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck froze the Campbells’ bank and retirement accounts, blocking them from transferring funds or selling assets while the agency tries to recoup its losses.