In May of last year, the staff of Dakota County’s Community Development Authority thought something fishy was going on.
The agency’s job is to provide housing assistance to workforce families, seniors, and other people who might struggle to keep a roof overhead. But a lot of these assistance checks seemed to be made out to people who weren’t eligible, or weren’t clients at all. Some were going to people who weren’t even alive.
It was time to call the police.
Eagan officers investigated and discovered that the checks were going to two different property management companies: Mackey Prime Property and Twin Cities Star Properties. They’d apparently been receiving checks since April 2016, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal funds.
Police looked up both companies with the Minnesota Secretary of State. They were registered that same April by the same person: the authority’s software coordinator, 40-year-old Fridley man Vangyee Yang. Some of the checks were being sent directly to his house. Together, they amounted to over $270,000.
As software coordinator, Yang had full access to the authority’s computer systems, and could use them to create fake accounts and siphon money into them. The authority canned him within the month.
According to the Star Tribune, Yang and his wife had moved to Florida before the county charged him with five counts of theft by swindle in November of last year. In May, he pleaded guilty to four of them.
Last week, he was sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $500, on top of paying back everything he stole. He’ll also be on probation for 20 years, with plenty of community service to fulfill along the way. He could have been on the hook for up to 20 years in prison.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a statement that it was particularly “concerning” to see blatant theft of funds intended for people in need.
It may be years before the county gets what Yang owes it. Thankfully, according to authority communications director Sara Swenson, the authority was fully insured minus a $500 deductible.
"We continue to serve as many households as we can through the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program," she said in a statement.