Ex-director of Billings housing organization denies fraud charges

2014-02-06T15:15:00Z 2014-02-11T14:13:10Z Ex-director of Billings housing organization denies fraud chargesBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The former Billings-area director of a federally funded nonprofit housing organization pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that she stole from the program.

Christa Ann McClure, 51, of Denver, pleaded not guilty to an eight-count indictment for fraud and theft.

The indictment accuses McClure, who was executive director of Housing Montana in Billings, of embezzling money from a rural development grant program and from homeowners in the program from about April 2008 until April 2010.

The indictment did not specify a total amount embezzled but said it was more than $5,000.

In October 2007, Housing Montana received a $514,454 grant from a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build 22 homes in two phases.

In a Gazette story about the program in 2009, McClure said the program was building the first 11 homes in a West End subdivision and that qualified homeowners had to invest 35 hours a week laboring on their homes and on homes of others in the program to receive funding help.

The telephone number for Housing Montana has been disconnected.

U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said in the indictment that McClure paid herself “significant sums” for consulting services even though she was a full-time employee and that she embezzled money to pay her family unauthorized salaries and bonuses, family bills and personal travel expenses.

McClure charged every homeowner $750 for a nonexistent “technical assistance warranty” and a $1,000 fee for leasing tools that were provided by the grant, the indictment said.

McClure also moved money from one account into another account over which she had more control, Rostad said.

McClure then used the account to steal money to buy a laptop computer for personal use and to pay herself for unused sick leave and annual leave “substantially exceeding” the hours to which she was entitled to receive compensation. She also wrote a $21,000 check to which she was not entitled, he said.

The indictment further alleges McClure lied in reports, improperly claiming reimbursements for employer taxes and contributions that Housing Montana paid to the IRS when the payments had not been made and the organization was not entitled to reimbursement.

If convicted, McClure faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine on the scheme to defraud charge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby continued McClure’s release pending trial. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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