Updated with copy of indictment and more details about East Lake Management. Also corrects spelling of East Lake.
The former manager of a public housing complex in St. Louis city has been indicted on federal identity theft charges.
Marsha Harrington and two men - Calvin Shaw and Larry Corner - each face one felony count of identity theft and one of conspiracy to commit identity theft. The crimes covered a period between 2011 and 2012, when Harrington worked for East Lake Management, a Chicago-based firm hired by the St. Louis Housing Authority to oversee the Clinton-Peabody housing complex.
Harrington is accused of stealing social security numbers and other personal information from tenant applications, then using the data to file false tax returns. Shaw and Corner are accused of providing Harrington with other people's personal data -- including information from prison inmates -- for the same purpose. The two men would receive a cut of any allegedly ill-gotten tax refund prepared using data they provided. It was not immediately clear how Harrington knew Shaw and Corner, who is serving time in the Southeast Correctional Center for robbery and burglary
Sixth Ward alderwoman Christine Ingrassia was the director of community outreach for the area when the crimes allegedly occurred, and she worked with some of the residents who were worried they’d been impacted.
"It’s a great group of families overall who live down there, and when they are already at such a disadvantage, it’s really heartless to take advantage of them further," she said, adding that tenants had accused Harrington of accepting cash payments for better apartments.
The housing authority no longer does business with East Lake, which once managed about 900 units of public housing in the city. The authority's executive director said the alleged crimes are part of the reason why, and said the agency cooperated fully with the investigation. Ingrassia says St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Ragan, which took over for East Lake, has vastly improved the quality of life at Clinton-Peabody.
East Lake is owned by Elzie Higginbottom, a developer and Democratic power broker in Illinois who was at different times the head of the state's gaming board and the Cook County Housing Authority. Higginbottom resigned from the Cook County post in May 2012, as two media outlets in Chicago were investigating potential conflicts of interest related to a contract awarded to one of his companies.
Officials at East Lake did not return a phone call for comment. An attorney listed for Marsha Harrington declined to comment. Calvin Shaw is is being represented by the federal public defender's office for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Larry Corner did not have an attorney listed.
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