Former senator's firm suspected of false federal stimulus claims.Submitted by cjarvis on 2011-08-03 13:06
The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into accusations that former state Sen. Fred Hobbs’ consulting firm submitted falsified applications for federal money for low-income people in Yadkin County to upgrade their homes.
The Southern Pines-based Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates is suspected of faking homeowners’ signatures on applications, including those of two people who were dead and involving one house that had burned to the ground. The company is also suspected of submitting documentation falsely claiming that several officials in Yadkin County met as a committee to select the eight applicants and four alternates in question.
UPDATE: Hobbs’ attorney, Michael L. Weisel of Raleigh, issued a statement this afternoon saying all Hobbs knows about the accusations are what he has learned from news media reports. The N&O posted a story about the investigation online earlier today.
“We categorically deny all Yadkin County’s allegations as totally baseless and false,” said the statement attributed to Hobbs. “… We will issue a full and complete refutation of these unwarranted and unfounded allegations at the appropriate time and place.”
Michael Walser, the regional grant manager for the company who reportedly handled the applications, could not be reached for comment.
Yadkin County’s county manager, Aaron Church, called the discovery of the alleged improprieties earlier this year distressing.
“Yadkin County has many residents who are in desperate need of the home repairs that could be provided pursuant to this grant,” Church said in a statement he released today in response to an inquiry from The News & Observer. “The false or misleading information contained in the grant application has hampered the County’s ability to provide our residents with those repairs.”The suspicious applications were discovered when a competing firm, Benchmark CMR of Kannapolis, that won the contract to administer the federal grants attempted to verify information that Hobbs, Upchurch had used in preparing the applications. Hobbs, Upchurch had been authorized by the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners to apply for the grant, which it did without charge in hopes of winning the contract to administer the money.
In June, Yadkin County hired the law firm of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein to investigate, and notified the state Department of Commerce, which handles the federal grants. The law firm confirmed the suspicious applications by interviewing several of the homeowners, and determining that the supposed selection committee meeting never took place, according to its report.
Hobbs, Upchurch had also prepared applications for stimulus grants issued in 2009, but those applications were not funded. The Parker Poe investigation raised the suspicion that Hobbs, Upchurch resubmitted the names from 2009 for the 2010 grants – which were to go to communities that didn’t receive the first round of funding – but never actually interviewed those people or visited their homes in either year. The county was authorized to receive $100,000 in 2010.
Commerce spokesman Tim Crowley said the funds were never released to Hobbs, Upchurch, and that the department, after conducting its own investigation, referred the matter to the SBI. Commerce receives about $45 million in federal Community Development block grants each year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issues the funds.
Hobbs, who was a Democratic state senator in the 1990s, last year was fined $150,000 for illegal campaign contributions to Gov. Bev Perdue, former Gov. Mike Easley, former Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker. He was also charged with a misdemeanor for the contributions.
COMMENTS ON STORY
You see, this is N&O sneaky way of clouding the fact he's still a Democrat. The term "WAS" is actually the bus tire so now you know why tigers eat their young.
However, Democrats obviously have nine lives. Were he a Repiblican, he would be in Central prison by now for fraud. Hobbs commits campaign fraud yet counties still hire him as if he's an ethical and upstanding businessman. Go figure.
My question is with the State Department overseeing the work product of this clown. Looks like this is an ongoing habit. Rehabbing burned houses? Dead grant applicants? Sounds like Chicago to me. Who is reviewing the applications?
Not too worry though. We just raised the debt ceiling so we can expect plenty more of these types of activites from the government.