Brooklyn Park Woman Gets Prison for Charity Fraud Scheme
A Brooklyn Park woman, the convicted ringleader of a charity fraud scheme totaling nearly $700,000, has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison, U.S. prosecutors announced Monday.
Clarissa Combs, 49, is one of 13 people who have pleaded guilty and sentenced for their roles in the scheme.
According to documents filed with the court, Combs was the former program manager for Catholic Charities, a nonprofit that provides housing and related services for the homeless. The documents say Combs and multiple con-conspirators, devised and carried out a scheme that fraudulently obtained at least $684,000 from Catholic Charities.
“Ms. Combs orchestrated a years-long fraud scheme that diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the most vulnerable members of society, including individuals and families in need of housing. I applaud the work of our investigative partners in bringing this conspiracy to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald in a statement to CCX News.
How the Scheme Worked
As part of the scheme, Combs recruited other Catholic Charities’ employees, friends and family to pose as landlords and homeless clients to fraudulently obtain funds from the nonprofit. The scheme went on from April 2012 to February 2019. During the investigation, prosecutors say Combs tried to conceal the scheme and minimize her involvement by making false statements to investigators and federal authorities.
Besides Combs, three others received prison time. They include Aisha Bell, 43, of Minneapolis, two years in prison; Tyrone Burton, 41, of St. Paul, 1½ years in prison; and Rachael Ekholm, 41, of Richfield, six months in prison. Nine others avoided imprisonment, instead receiving sentences of probation in connection to the scheme.
Combs was also ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $684,081.90. The others convicted were ordered to pay restitution as well.