LaTanya Everette has been one of the lucky few in Miami-Dade County to have her rent subsidized by the county’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The waiting list to get a voucher has 53,587 people on it currently. Many of those people have been waiting for years.
“Clearly a much greater demand than we have supply,” says Michael Liu, Director of the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department.
Since 2010, a voucher has been used to pay for $1,200 of Everette’s $1,383 monthly rent at a home in Northwest Miami-Dade County, according to her landlord, and she continued to use that voucher even after getting married to Thomas Harper in 2015.
But the NBC 6 Investigators found Harper is a county employee with an income twice the maximum amount allowed for a family to qualify for the voucher.
“The program is income-based,” Liu said. “A family of four, that’s about $36,000 a year. You can’t earn more than that.”
Public records show Harper has worked as a corrections officer at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center making nearly $70,000 per year. He also has made thousands more in a part-time job with the Miami-Dade County School District.
The county requires anyone receiving voucher payments to notify them about any change in income or family size within 10 days.
“If we find out you haven’t complied with that 10-day reporting requirement, we can terminate your assistance,” says Liu.
Harper’s name is not on the voucher. Everette wouldn’t comment about her voucher.
By phone, Harper told NBC 6 Investigator Willard Shepard that he didn’t live at the home.
But NBC 6 hidden cameras saw him or his truck at the Section 8 home over a two month period including every day for more than two weeks straight. There are pictures and videos of Harper coming to the home from work wearing his uniform, heading to church on a Sunday morning and, with his wife, arriving to the home with his boat in tow.
The NBC 6 Investigators presented the findings to the couple and to the county. A spokesperson for the Housing Department said they launched an investigation.
Soon after, the spokesperson confirmed that Everette relinquished the Section 8 voucher she had used since 2010. The county often requires people found misusing a voucher to return money. For Everette’s family, the total would be nearly $36,000.
The couple retained an attorney, James DeMiles, who sent a statement on behalf of the couple.
“Mr. Harper acknowledges that he married Latanya Harper in 2015 and that she was residing in HUD housing as a part of the Miami-Dade Housing Choice Voucher Program at that time. Nevertheless, Mr. Harper had no intent to defraud any person or governmental entity. A thorough investigation will show that, under the unique facts present here, Mr. Harper never misrepresented anything, nor did he fail to disclose anything that he was required to. There is much more to this story than is apparent on its face, however, Mr. Harper is not in a position to comment on further details at this time. Mr. Harper and his wife are actively working with the Miami-Dade Housing Choice Voucher Program in an effort to bring closure to this issue and also clear his name of any perceived wrongdoing."
Between January 2016 and September 2017, Miami-Dade County’s Housing Department reports it has received more than 800 complaints about Section 8 vouchers being abused. Seventy-nine of the complaints resulted in a person having their voucher taken away. But not a single person has been prosecuted. It can be a felony to misrepresent information provided to the Housing Department.
If you suspect fraud in housing assistance, you can call 786-469-4105 or click here.