Mother, son indicted for felony theft
Brenda Schroeder (left), Wendall Bennett (right)
A mother and son have been indicted on first-degree felony theft charges for an alleged scheme to defraud taxpayers and low-income Texans, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Defendant Brenda Schroeder, a 62-year-old Smithville resident, is charged with aggregated theft of more than $250,000 by a public servant for allegedly submitting fraudulent credit applications and engaging in organized criminal activity, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Her son, 43-year-old Wendall Bennett of Newcastle, was indicted on charges of felony theft and engaging in organized criminal activity.
A press release from OAG said Schroeder served as the Smithville Housing Authority’s executive director from 2006 until her termination on July 1, 2012. Operating under ordinary circumstances, the Smithville Housing Authority’s public assistance program uses a voucher system that reimburses landlords.
Attorney General Greg Abbott alleges that Schroeder illegally disbursed federal housing payments to her son by falsely claiming that he was a landlord, which made him eligible to receive federal subsidies as a low-income housing provider.
Schroeder also falsified documents, forged signatures and violated federal Section 8 housing regulations to secure taxpayer subsidized housing for more than 20 of her relatives, according to the attorney general. She is also accused of falsely classifying her son and other relatives as landlords so that they could receive federal payments for providing housing to non-existent renters.
To cover up their plan, Attorney General Abbott says Schroeder and Bennett rotated their family members—some of which lived as far away as Wichita Falls—in and out of the system so that the disbursements would vary from month to month.
Many illegally received benefits as both tenants and landlords, hurting economically disadvantaged Smithville residents who were on the waiting list to receive public assistance from the Smithville Housing Authority, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Both Schroeder and face sentences of five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.