Louis Abate, Former Housing Official, Accused Of Stealing $120k From Section 8 Housing Fund
Since 2009, Louis Abate -- in his former role as a Nassau County housing official responsible for distributing Section 8 federal housing funds -- has been writing $5,000 checks every month to a landlord named "J.M. Watson" to subsidize the rent of low-income families living in an apartment Watson supposedly owned.
The problem, as the federal government sees it, is that Watson doesn't exist, and Abate was pocketing the cash.
Abate was arrested this morning, and is expected to be arraigned this afternoon on charges of theft of government funds.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by the Voice, since 2009, Abate -- who served as the fiscal director for the Nassau County Office of Housing and Community Development (it was his job to hand out federal funds to landlords with tenants who qualify for Section 8 housing benefits) -- wrote about $120,000 in checks to "Watson."
A federal investigation into the checks showed that "Watson" was receiving about $5,000 a month -- an amount that is roughly three times more than what is typically issued to Section 8 landlords in the area Abate oversaw.
The investigation also revealed that the checks written to "Watson" were deposited into a bank account controlled by Abate and his wife, Joanne M. Abate.
Joanne Abate's maiden name just happens to be Watson -- thus, "J.M. Watson."
Abate was questioned by investigators about this "Watson" character in January and denied knowing anyone by that name -- despite writing checks to a "J.M. Watson" every month for the previous two and a half years.
Following getting questioned by authorities, Abate stopped going to work, and was later fired by the NCOHCD.
If convicted of the presumed theft charge, Abate faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.