Money bills

Federal authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 12, that four people have been charged in a scheme to steal more than $680,000 in funds from a program to help the homeless.

One of those charged was an employee of Catholic Charities who recruited coworkers and family members to take part, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The money was from charitable funds that would have gone toward helping homeless with housing and other needs.

“We at Catholic Charities are angered and frustrated to have been the victim of criminal acts where individuals who were entrusted with the responsibility of serving our most vulnerable neighbors conspired to defraud Catholic Charities,” the nonprofit said in a prepared statement. “It is important that the individuals involved in this criminal scheme be held accountable for their actions and seek to make amends as they move forward in life.”

According to federal officials, between April 2012 and February 2019, Catholic Charities’ former program manager Clarissa Combs, 48, of Brooklyn Park, hatched and participated in a scheme to obtain funds from the organization while also recuiting other employees, friends and family members to pretend to be homeless.

Combs directed them to provide their names and social security numbers to allow her to fill out federal documents, lease agreements, and check requests. This let them pose as landlords providing housing to the homeless, then splitting the checks by the nonprofit between them, officials said.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Combs is charged with a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and a count of making false statements to investigators.

The others — charged with a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud — are:

  • Bridgit Michaud, 54 of Minneapolis
  • Jalonda Combs, 37 of Brooklyn Park
  • Audrey Heath, 34 of Woodbury

The case stems from an investigation by federal and postal investigators.