Former St. Clair official's relatives plead guilty in low-income housing fraud case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three relatives of the former St. Clair Housing Commission director convicted of stealing government low-income housing funds have pleaded guilty for their role in the scheme, federal officials announced Wednesday.

Brian Loren, Ryan Loren and Kayla Loren entered the pleas Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith.

Investigators announced in 2019 that the Florida residents were charged with conspiracy to commit federal program fraud between 2008 and 2016.

The charges came a year after the late Lorena Loren was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars while she was head of the housing commission in St. Clair.

Prosecutors accused Lorena Loren of orchestrating a conspiracy with the help of relatives, including her husband and son, to spend government money on alcohol, homes and other items.

Loren stole approximately $336,000 in federal funds, including money earmarked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly known as Section 8 housing, which allows low-income families to lease privately owned rental properties through subsidies, investigators said Wednesday.

She died in March, federal court records show.

Authorities claimed her husband Brian, son Ryan and daughter-in-law Kayla unlawfully obtained more than $150,000 in federal funds.

Brian Loren, 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to commit federal program fraud. According to court records, he conspired with his wife and others to embezzle money from the St. Clair Housing Commission.

Loren and another individual also opened a joint bank account at a PNC Bank in Deland, Florida; between 2014 and 2016, fraudulent Section 8 rental subsidy payments were issued, officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Ryan Loren, 35, and his 31-year-old wife both pleaded guilty to receiving unlawful compensation from HUD with the intent to defraud.

The couple agreed they received between $40,000 and $95,000 and "like her husband, Kayla Loren admitted that, from August 2010 through August 2016, she made false statements to HUD and to a federal grand jury regarding who lived with her in order to receive improper funds from HUD," according to a news release.

"Having been trusted to serve the residents of St. Clair as a public official, Lorena Loren instead conspired with her family to steal federal funds for herself and her family, and today that family is admitting their collective role in that criminal scheme," said James Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. "This case is yet another example of the FBI’s commitment to rooting out public corruption in order to protect the integrity of the institutions that are supposed to serve the best interests of our citizens."

All three Lorens had been scheduled to face a trial in November, records show. They are due to be sentenced Jan. 26.

Brian Loren faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Ryan and Kayla Loren each face a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

As part of her their guilty pleas, the defendants paid the remaining $99,835.29 in restitution owed to HUD. Some $336,340.22 in restitution has been repaid as a result of the prosecutions, officials reported Wednesday.

"We are committed to prosecuting public officials who steal from any federal program and anyone who assists public officials in depriving lawfully-entitled citizens of the vital assistance they need," U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said in a statement.