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Sweep seeks 80, 3 in Rockdale
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State and federal authorities sent a sign to fraudulent Section 8 homeowners in a massive sweep of arrests on Wednesday.

That sign, called Operation Clean House, was an action to notify those who are living in Housing and Urban Development homes while providing fraudulent paperwork will be aggressively investigated and arrested.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local authorities announced they were arresting 80 individuals throughout 31 counties, whom GBI Director Vernon Keenan said "were guilty of fraudulently obtaining federal funding for affordable houses."

Three of the 48 people who were arrested by 2 p.m. Tuesday were from Rockdale County.

"The Obama administration has a zero tolerance policy on this issue and we are aggressively working with these agencies to identify those persons who are abusing tax payer's dollars," U.S. Housing and Urban Development Southeast Regional Administrator Ed Jennings said. That is a big issue."

The GBI obtained the warrants on evidence uncovered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which distributes housing funds in 149 of Georgia's 159 counties and the HUD Office of the Inspector General.

Among those arrested were individuals who were not reporting income or withholding those living in the house.

Authorities hope Monday's Impact Sweep will inspire people still committing those crimes to stop, as well as bring out any whistle blowers for information.

Those who wish to help out can call 1-800-347-3735.

"It is important particularly in times of economic stress, but in all times, that tax payer dollars are used in a way in which they were appropriated," Jennings said.

According to special agent in charge with the HUD Office of the Inspector General, Herschell Harvell, a similar sweep in Los Angeles resulted in 150 arrests.

Harvell said that investigation, which ended in 2008 led to people coming forward following the sweep.

"Those persons who are violating and abusing section 8 will be aggressively investigated by HUD IOG and we will seek federal and state prosecutions," Harvell said. "We will also seek those persons to remove them from receiving further housing subsidies."

The 80 people who were under warrant for arrest are among a program of 15,000 participants of HUD in the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and among 2.2 million nationwide.

Those people receive both state and federal monies, and the purpose of Wednesday's sweep was to ensure that money ends up in the right hands.

"A person who receives housing benefits which they are not entitled to under the law steals taxpayer money," Keenan said.