Ex-housing director gets 1-15 years in pill theft case

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — Describing an ex-Ferndale Housing Commission executive director convicted of breaking into tenants' apartments and stealing their prescription drugs a "danger to the community" an Oakland Circuit judge sentenced the woman to one to 15 years in prison Monday for violating terms of her probationary sentence.


Deborah E. Wilson, 53, of Clinton Township had entered a no contest plea Jan. 22 before Judge Denise Langford Morris on two counts of second-degree home invasion and illegal possession of the drug oxycodone. She was sentenced Feb. 26 to three years of probation with the possibility of having her criminal record expunged upon completion of all conditions, including no use of alcohol or controlled substances.

But Wilson showed up at a meeting the next day with her probation officer with a 0.24 blood alcohol level; was hospitalized and "clean for a minute," according to Morris before a March 19 probation meeting where she posted a 0.11 blood-alcohol level.

She was jailed after an April 23 reckless driving incident in which she fled from police and drove at speeds exceeding 90 mph, slamming into a median barrier before being boxed in by police cars. She had an empty wine bottle in the car, 0.19 blood-alcohol level and was disoriented, police said.

A motorist with a 0.08 level is considered intoxicated under Michigan law.

Wilson waived her right to a hearing and pleaded guilty Monday to violating her probation. Morris noted Wilson had once "looked promising" when she entered a treatment program in February and even wrote the judge a letter on how "I hope to be a role model for recovery." Morris remarked on the "downward spiral" that followed.

"Taking in consideration all factors ... I deem you a danger to the community," said Morris, in revoking Wilson's probation and sentencing her to serve one year to 15 years in prison with credit for 56 days served.

Morris, noting Wilson's theft of "a large amount of pills" besides her alcohol abuse, said she would also recommend conditions of any parole to include supervision, substance abuse counseling and mental health treatment.

Before the sentencing, Wilson, standing in cuffs, belly chains and jail garb, could be seen wiping away tears and quietly mouthing "I love you" to her husband and relatives seated a few feet away in the courtroom.

"I appreciate you originally giving me an opportunity to do better," Wilson told Morris before her sentence. "I wish I could say what made me fall out of control. Unfortunately I have hurt myself, my husband, my daughter. ... I didn't mean any disrespect to the court."

Wilson's attorney, Jack Jaffe, had asked Morris to take mercy on his client who prior to last November had no criminal history or juvenile record and was recognized by her peers at the state and national level for her work in the federal housing field.

"She is not a horrible person, she has her demons," said Jaffe, who had requested some jail time, coupled with bond conditions including an electronic tether and mental health counseling.

Jaffe said there was a need "to protect the public from her and to protect her from herself."

"I would hope that with some good time credit, Deborah will be paroled in 10 months," Jaffe said after sentencing.

Sentencing guidelines had been between two and 15 years.

Wilson was the longtime director of the housing authority which oversees federal-supported housing for low-income residents in Ferndale. She was initially arrested after an investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Enforcement Team which included a surveillance in a Ferndale housing building. Wilson was observed using a key to enter apartments after tenants had been summoned to her office. Investigators determined Wilson located prescription pill bottles in the residences and substituted pain medication drugs with over-the-counter aspirin or Tylenol to cover up the thefts.

The narcotics team officer said Wilson has admitted thefts at other apartments for prescription pills for her own use. Wilson has been executive director of the housing commission since 1987. The commission, funded by HUD, was created in 1969 and administers 125 units of elderly/disabled housing in two high-rise apartment buildings and 43 family houses.

After her arrest on drug offenses, Wilson resigned from the housing authority and obtained a $130,000 severance package based on her contract and long service, according to Jaffe.


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