Former Marshall Housing Authority Director Stephanie Branch pleaded guilty this month to the federal charge of Department of Housing and Urban Development fraud.
Pursuant to the plea agreement accepted in the case, Branch, who served as director for nearly five years, was ordered to pay restitution (including community restitution) in the amount of $8,785.72, which equates to $3,050 to the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and $5,735.73 to HUD.
She was also ordered to pay a fine of $2,000. Branch was also imposed a special assessment of $25. She was additionally sentenced to one year probation for the crime.
The sentencing hearing was held earlier this month, Feb. 7, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Payne. According to the complaint filed in the matter, beginning on or about Jan. 1, 2016 and continuing through June 1, 2019, Branch knowingly and unlawfully received compensation with intent to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General.
Branch was employed as the executive director of the Marshall Housing Authority from Oct. 1, 2015 through Feb. 12, 2020. Prior to her appointment as director, she served as deputy director.
During her time period as executive director, HUD said that Branch intentionally and knowingly, and with intent to defraud HUD, used the Marshall Housing Authority credit cards to purchase goods and services for her own personal benefit and not for the benefit of the MHA, which is a subdivision of HUD.
“These purchases resulted in a loss of $5,735.72 to HUD,” court documents show.
The investigation also revealed that Branch intentionally and knowingly, and with intent to defraud, applied for and received FEMA funding for her own benefit on two separate occasions.
“These fraudulent applications resulted in a loss of $3,050 to FEMA,” court documents show.
The document titled, “Factual Basis,” was signed by the defendant, acknowledging that she accepted the statements as being true and correct.
Representing the federal government in this case was U.S. Attorney Jim Noble. Attorney Jeff Wood represented Branch in the case.