Local landlord pleads guilty to federal rent assistance fraud case

A local landlord accused of defrauding a federally funded emergency rental assistance program pleaded guilty in federal court this morning to one count of wire fraud.

Antoine Drains pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with the US Attorney’s Office. The agreement recommends a prison term of no more than 27 months, supervised release, and unspecified fines and restitution.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A sentencing hearing before Judge Thomas Rose is scheduled for July 12.

“There are extenuating circumstances that will be presented at the next hearing,” Dranes’ lawyer James P. Fleischer said when asked to comment after Tuesday’s plea hearing.

A Dayton Daily News investigation found that Drains, through his company Freedom for Living Property Management, collected rent assistance payments on behalf of tenants without their knowledge, including those whose rent was covered by public assistance programs such as Section 8.

Freedom for Living was paid $410,568 through the federal CARES Act program created by Montgomery County and administered by the Miami Valley Community Action Partnership to help people stay in their homes during the pandemic.

Federal collection filings allege that Drains created fraudulent rental assistance claims with MVCAP in 2020, sometimes lying about the identity of tenants or failing to reveal that he was already collecting rent from other sources.

“Essentially, Drains lied to MVCAP in order to obtain money that was not needed or used to cover tenants’ rental obligations,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney George Painter, who read the allegations on record in federal court.

The charges, to which Drains pleaded guilty, say he fraudulently obtained at least $150,000.

As part of its investigation, Dayton Daily News spoke to several Freedom for Living tenants, many of whom are in Butler Twp. — who said they did not know that Freedom for Living was receiving rental assistance on their property and that they or some agency paid all or part of the rent for the same months that the company billed MVCAP.

In a newspaper investigation, Greater Dayton Premier Management removed Freedom for Living from Section 8 on suspicion of fraud, and Montgomery County and other agencies announced measures to strengthen protection against fraud in pandemic relief programs.

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