Cameron County cracking down on housing fraud

Public housing is meant to help low-income families afford homes.

How much a person pays is determined by how much they make, but as Action 4 News uncovered, 40 percent of those who get help from the Cameron County Housing Authority were said to be dishonest when reporting their incomes.

Now the housing authority wants its money back.

Frank Cisneros is disabled and waiting for a new liver.

In his weak health, Frank is now forced to find a new home.

"I never thought this would happen," said Frank.

Frank and his family have lived in public housing for 4 years.

Frank said his 5-year-old is barely beginning to benefit from the special education program at his nearby school.

"Now for us to move, we looked all over the place; it's too expensive," said Frank, "and we don't wanna move from that school."

But Frank is being evicted.

In December, Frank got a letter from the Cameron County Housing Authority.

It claimed he owed over $1,600 in retroactive rent.

"They said this is a two year thing they found," said Frank, "and I'm thinking two years, that's a long time."

Frank's youngest son is 2-years-old.

Turns out Frank may have failed to report his son's government benefits as part of his income.

And the math makes sense.

Frank said his 2-year-old gets $233 every month.

The housing authority takes 30 percent of all income as rent.

Thirty percent of $233 means Frank saved $69 a month for two years.

The housing authority says Frank now owes them $1,656.

Frank's bill is just one of many the housing authority is trying to collect on.

A federal computer system called "Enterprise Income Verification" is now cracking down on what they call "housing fraud."

It compares what you say you earned to what social security has on its record.

"We just put in our information, and then if there's something that's not quite right, we'll flag it," said Daisy Flores, Executive Director of the Cameron County Housing Authority.

Flores said the program is playing catch up, and the information it's producing now is from two years ago.

So far, Flores said the housing authority is owed $60,000.

She said they could be owed much more.

"They have to pay," said Flores.

Flores said everyone including Frank is given a chance to prove the housing authority wrong.

"We just bring them in, make it right, or we're going to evict you," said Flores.

Flores said Frank could not prove his innocence.

Now his only options are to pay up or pack up, with or without a new home.

Frank said he's hired an attorney.

He said he's hunkering down in his home until he's kicked out.