Ex DOC Captain pleads guilty to fraud

Published 9:07 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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RALEIGH – Tana Eguasa Hill, who rose to the rank of Captain with the NC Department of Corrections, admitted her guilt this week in federal court for the theft of government funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, Hill entered a guilty plea for fraudulently submitting North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (NC HOPE) loan applications for emergency rental assistance.

Court documents show that Hill signed approximately four fraudulent applications to NC HOPE, seeking an approximate total of $26,350 for rental properties in Hertford County.

Hill, who according to the NC Department of Corrections was a Captain at Pasquotank Correctional Institution prior to her resignation on June 7, faces up to 10 years in prison upon sentencing later this year.

She also worked at Bertie Correctional Institution as an Assistant Unit Manager and later as a Unit Manager from August of 2012 until July of 2014.

Hill transferred to Pasquotank Correctional Institution in May of 2016. There, her annual salary rose to $69,864 as of November of last year.

According to the court documents, Congress, in March of 2020, enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who were suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs as flexible federal funding to states and localities earmarked to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the CDBG program as a source of flexible federal funding for economic and community development, as well as to direct long-term recovery funding to states and localities in response to disasters and emergencies.

The State of North Carolina’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR), a division of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, utilized federal funds made available in the CARES Act to assist North Carolina renters stay in their homes during COVID-19 by preventing evictions and the loss of utility services. The NC HOPE program utilized an initial $51.5 million allocation of CDBG funds from the CARES Act to provide housing and utility assistance. The State of North Carolina also received CRF funds from the CARES Act, of which $66 million was allocated to pay administrative costs associated with the NC HOPE program.

Evidence presented showed that Hill – between August and December of 2021 – carried out a housing fraud scheme to obtain emergency rental assistance designated for households impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In exchange for the NC HOPE program funds, landlords were required to agree not to evict the tenant for a certain amount of time.

The NC HOPE program closed to applicants on December 17, 2021.

Federal prosecutors said in court that Hill, age 43, falsely represented she was the landlord as well as submitting or causing to be submitted lease agreements wherein she was listed as the landlord.

The prosecutors added that Hill provided rental property addresses on the applications to obtain the NC HOPE rental assistance checks. The rental property addresses provided were determined to be uninhabitable at the time.

“On or between August, 2021 and December 10, 2021, in the Eastern District of North Carolina and elsewhere, defendant Hill, knowingly and willfully embezzled, stole, purloined, and converted to her own use, federal funds of the United States, that is, NC HOPE program funds of the United States Department of Treasury and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development,” as stated by federal prosecutors in the court documents.

Hill’s husband, Sean Tracy Dillard, pled guilty to the same crime in August of last year. In his case, Dillard submitted fictitious tenant lease agreements for multiple properties in Bertie County as part of his NC HOPE loan applications.

At that time, Dillard was employed as the Assistant Warden for Programs at Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor. Dillard, who joined the Department of Corrections in 1996 and had worked at five state prisons over the course of his career, was paid an annual salary of $68,019 as of March 1, 2023.