DC woman sentenced to 2 years in prison for charity-robbing scheme

A D.C. woman was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday in an embezzlement scheme that siphoned money designated for at-risk tenants in the District run by a program overseen by a charity.

Belinda McKenzie, 45, worked as a family support worker at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese in Washington in a rental assistance program between 2015 and 2017. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was designed to give money to families at risk of being evicted due to inability to pay rent.

McKenzie, along with others, manipulated the program with false documentation and lies to steal money away from the charity and share it among themselves, a U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Columbia news release said.

McKenzie and her accomplices took the information of family members, neighbors and friends and submitted fraudulent applications for rental assistance.

Money was then given to those McKenzie had listed as the landlords of at-risk tenants. The money was shared between those who took part in the scheme.

An investigation showed that McKenzie created false supporting documents to further convince the charity of the legitimacy of the claims. In all, 42 checks totaling $234,249 were falsely collected.

McKenzie pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in May 2019. On Thursday, she was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $234,249 in restitution, along with a forfeiture money judgment of the same amount.

After her release from prison, McKenzie will be placed on an additional two years of supervised release.

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