Clarissa Lynn Combs, a former program manager for Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, was sentenced to 71 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $684,000 in restitution for her role in a long-time fraud scheme. Combs had been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making a false statement.
Catholic Charities provides housing and related services to the homeless. According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Minnesota, between April 2012 and February 2019, Combs recruited other Catholic Charities employees, friends and family to pose both as landlords and homeless clients.
In addition to obtaining funds from Catholic Charities fraudulently, Combs was convicted of making false statements to investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to the Office of the Inspector General of Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Postal Inspector.
A dozen other individuals were convicted of similar charges stemming from the scheme. The 12 other defendants were ordered to repay amounts that ranged from $12,400 to $166,785. In addition, Tyrone Lamar Burton was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Aishia Renee Bell was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to two years in prison and two years of supervised release. Rachael Elizabeth Ekholm was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to six months in prison and three years of supervised release.
Jalonda Leann Combs, Bridgit Yvette Michaud and Anthony Jerome Oliver were each convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to three years of probation.
Neal Burton, Aisha Lenee Davis, Leteaste Henry-Davis, Audrey Sebiletta Heath, Shaneka Lasha Mzee and Sharre Ophilia Rush were each convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and sentenced to two years of probation.
“Ms. Combs orchestrated a years-long fraud scheme that diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the most vulnerable members of society, including individuals and families in need of housing. I applaud the work of our investigative partners in bringing this conspiracy to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald in a statement announcing the sentencing.
According to Catholic Charities’ affiliate’s most recent financial statement, the organization claimed just over $18.3 million in cash and cash equivalents and $158.6 million in total assets in 2019.