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Former Niagara Falls Housing Authority Head Pleads Guilty

Stephanie Cowart stole funds from NFHA

December 06, 2017 - 4:12 pm

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WBEN) - The former head of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority plead guilty to stealing government funds on Wednesday.

Stephanie W. Cowart, 58, faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her son, Allen, 31, and daughter-in-law, Fredia, 28, also plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of theft of government funds which carries a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Between 1997 and 2016, Stephanie Cowart was the Executive Director of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority. Between October 2013 and January 15, Cowart stole $6,000 from the NFHA. Her son and daughter in law obtained the money through a grant from the Niagara Area Foundation. Its intent was to go to go "A Better Me" project but was, instead, deposited directly into the NFHA's operating account. 

Allan Cowart defrauded the NFHA and the NY Office of Children and Family Services after he falsely claimed he was performing the work of two teachers. He given a temporary position of teacher beginning on October 1, 2013. Pay for that job was $23 per hour but Stephanie Cowart directed that her son was to be paid an hourly rate of $50. Thusly, he received $11,583 more than he would have.

“As the leader of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, Stephanie Cowart was obligated to act as a responsible steward of these funds and to use them to better the lives of residents and the community as a whole,” U.S. Attorney Kennedy said in a statement. “Instead, the defendant misused her position to ensure that the only improvements realized through her administration of these funds were to the bank balances of her family members.”

They will be sentenced on April 5, 2018. 

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