Nonprofit housing counselors Lori Macakanja, 35, of Dunkirk, New York, was convicted of mail fraud and theft of government money, was sentenced to 72 months in prison and three years supervised release and ordered to pay $298,639 in restitution to victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini Ross, who handled the case, stated that Macakanja, in her capacity as a housing counselor employed by HomeFront, Inc., inappropriately requested money from clients.
The defendant told HomeFront clients that the money would be used toward loan modifications to prevent foreclosure on their homes. However, after receiving the funds, Macakanja used the money for her own personal use, including gambling, and failed to obtain the loan modifications for the victims.
A total of 136 HomeFront clients were defrauded with losses totaling approximately $300,000. In addition, Macakanja also obtained federal grant monies from the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) for HomeFront clients. On two occasions, she diverted $2,000 worth of BURA money to pay her own personal mortgage.
“Macakanja preyed on the most vulnerable homeowners,” said Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for SIGTARP. “While an employee of a federally-approved housing counselor, she illegally solicited and received payments from 136 homeowners facing foreclosure with the promise that the funds would be used to secure mortgage modifications. Little did the homeowners know, the payments were being used by Macakanja to support her gambling habit and to pay her own mortgage.
“Many Americans are struggling to hold on to the American dream, ownership of a home,” said U.S.
Attorney Hochul. “The victims turned to the defendant for help in keeping their home. Instead, the
defendant abused their trust and stole their money. Unfortunately, because of the defendant’s actions,
some of the victims lost their homes.” – Source
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