A former Department of Community Affairs senior field representative will spend seven years in prison for stealing more than $800,000 from a program that assists people threatened with homelessness. Robin Wheeler-Hicks, a 50-year-old Elizabeth resident who was responsible for processing Homelessness Prevention Program cases in Union County, admitted to submitting 428 false applications to the Homelessness Prevention Program, which is administered by the DCA.
The program provides grants to eligible individuals and families who, through no fault of their own, are at risk of becoming homeless. It provides rent to keep a family in a current home, and provides applicants with up to two months rent and security deposit for a new residence if they are forced out of their home, according to information released by the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Wheeler-Hicks was ordered to pay $830,901 in restitution to the state and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
An investigation by the state Attorney General’s office found that Wheeler-Hicks used her official position to obtain pertinent information regarding HPP candidates, which she used to create and submit fictitious HPP claims for payment to applicant landlords. Other co-defendants assisted her by providing information for the false applications. The fraudulent applications reported that the applicants were temporarily homeless due to residential fires, and applications included fictitious fire reports purportedly from the Elizabeth Fire Department.