A former County of Marin employee was charged last week with stealing close to $2 million from Marin’s emergency rental assistance program.
Eric Faulks is suspected of embezzlement of public funds, entering a computer system with the intent to defraud, and seven counts of grand theft.
Conviction on the charges would result in a state prison sentence. A majority of the embezzled money was frozen before it could be used and will be returned to the program. The County will seek to recover any remaining missing funds through the restitution process in the criminal courts.
The County became aware of suspicious transactions in June after being notified by an out-of-state bank. The County immediately contacted the staff of District Attorney Lori E. Frugoli and contacts at both the state and federal rental assistance programs. While the investigation remains on-going, District Attorney investigators have discovered that the former employee, Faulks, used his position with the County to approve transactions involving fraudulent landlord applications. The County attributed the recovery to quick action of the County’s investigating team, the banks, and the Community Action Marin, the County’s financial partner for the rental assistance program.
Faulks was an employment development counselor assigned to help manage the program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety-net program is funded by the State of California and the U.S. government to assist tenants and landlords unable to cover rent because of economic hardships tied directly to the pandemic.
The County placed Faulks, a Solano County resident, on administrative leave immediately after a search warrant was executed of his personal property. Shortly thereafter, he resigned his employment with the County during the County’s internal investigation.
“We take our stewardship of public funds very seriously,” said Assistant County Administrator Angela Nicholson. “We have taken extra measures to detect fraud and ensure that these funds are provided for the important purposes of keeping families housed during these challenging times.”
Since the discovery of the embezzlement, the County has built greater security into its local program to ensure that additional fraud does not occur. With the intention of creating a program that removed barriers for renters in the greatest need during the pandemic, the program allowed for self-attestation for rental debt. Going forward, the County is conducting background checks on anybody working for the program. Verification of forms submitted on behalf of renters and landlords undergo a thorough audit and will be verified by multiple people before rental payments are authorized.
The added precautions are likely to add more time to the rental assistance payment process, although anybody who receives an eviction notice of 90 days or less is receiving priority service.