Chelsea Property Owner Indicted for Procurement Fraud

A Chelsea area property owner and real estate broker has been indicted in connection with procurement fraud and falsifying a lead inspection report, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced last week.

Nidia Peguero, age 39, of Chelsea, was indicted on Thursday by a Suffolk County Grand Jury on the charges of Procurement Fraud (2 counts) and Uttering False or Forged Records.

“Exposure to lead can be extremely dangerous, especially for young children,” Coakley said. “We allege that this defendant falsified a lead inspection report in order to be able to accept government-funded housing assistance payments from a tenant with three children under six years old.”

The AG’s Office began an investigation into this matter after it was referred by the Department of Public Health. Authorities allege that in October 2011, Peguero, a licensed realtor, submitted a falsified lead inspection compliance letter for a Chelsea property her husband owned to the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) in order for him to be approved as a landlord eligible to receive government-funded rental assistance payments.

MBHP serves as a regional administrator for the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and administers both the Section 8 and HomeBase housing assistance programs in the Boston metropolitan area. A landlord must submit appropriate documentation to MBHP to become eligible to receive rental assistance payments. Further, if there are to be children under the age of six living in the unit, a landlord must submit documentation showing that a passing lead paint inspection was conducted on the property.

According to authorities, after a tenant of the Chelsea property, who at the time had three children under the age of six, applied to receive housing assistance, MBHP received a letter of lead inspection compliance from Peguero. The letter was purportedly signed by a licensed lead inspector. However, a review of the letter conducted by MBHP and inspectors from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program determined the documentation to be fraudulent. Investigators allege that Peguero altered a prior proper lead inspection report prepared for her parents for a different property and submitted the falsified document to MBHP.

Further investigation revealed that Peguero submitted the same forged lead letter in May 2010 to Children’s Services of Roxbury in order to receive payments under a different state housing subsidy program called Flex Fund, which is administered by DHCD.

Peguero will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on a later date.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the AG’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force, with assistance from the Massachusetts Environmental Police and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the Department of Public Health, which was established to prevent, screen, diagnose and treat lead poisoning and the sources of potential lead poisoning.

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