- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The former Billings-area director of a federally funded low-income housing organization has denied charges that she stole money from the group.

Christa Ann McClure of Denver pleaded not guilty Thursday to an eight-count indictment for fraud and theft, The Billings Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1dvsZ1V). She was released on her own recognizance.

Prosecutors allege McClure, 51, embezzled federal grant money and took money from prospective homeowners in the Housing Montana program over a two-year period ending in April 2012.

The indictment alleges McClure paid herself “significant sums” for consulting services, even though she was a full-time employee, and that she paid her family unauthorized salaries and bonuses. Prosecutors allege she used grant money to pay family bills and personal travel expenses.

The indictment does not specify a total amount embezzled.

McClure’s attorney, Cammi Woodward, was in meetings and unavailable to comment Friday morning.

In October 2007, Housing Montana received a $514,454 grant from a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build 22 homes in two phases. The program required homeowners to spend 35 hours a week working on their home or the homes of others to receive assistance.

U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad alleged McClure moved money from one account into another over which she had more control and then used that money to buy a laptop computer for personal use, pay herself for unused sick leave and annual leave “substantially exceeding” the amount to which she was entitled. Charging documents say she wrote herself a check for $21,000 to which she was not entitled.

The indictment also alleges McClure charged every homeowner $750 for a nonexistent “technical assistance warranty” and $1,000 fee for leasing the tools that were provided by the grant.

An April 14 trial date was set before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com