Former USDA RD employee pleads guilty to stealing mortgaged properties
A former employee of USDA Rural Development in Brookhaven pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal houses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture using her position with the agency, formerly the Farmers Home Administration, to steal USDA-mortgaged houses.
Ella Martin, 69, of Jayess, changed her plea to guilty entering the plea May 18 in US. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi, at Natchez.
Two others indicted as co-conspirators with Martin, pleaded guilty to the charges last year,
Martin is scheduled for sentencing on Sept 19. Her co-conspirators, her son, Barry Martin, and his wife, Fiesta Kagler, are to be sentenced June 15.
USDA Rural Development is a federal agency helping rural residents buy or rent safe, affordable housing, primarily targeting low and very-low income people.
Federal court documents charged that Ella Martin conspired with Barry Martin, Fiesta Kagler and others to identify and steal USDA-mortgaged properties. All the targeted properties were mortgaged through the Brookhaven office of USDA Rural Development where Martin was employed. Because she worked at the agency, she had access to a list of abandoned, foreclosed, nearly-foreclosed and other distressed USDA-mortgaged properties. Court records said Martin would create fraudulent warranty deeds designed to convey ownership of those properties to co-conspirators and others. The fraudulent deeds included forged signatures from former homeowners, including at least one deceased individual. The fraudulent deeds were then filed in Chancery Courts around Mississippi with the intent to deprive the actual owners of the use and benefit of the properties and to deprive the United States Government of the actual value of the properties.
Martin pleaded guilty to a violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 371, which criminalizes conspiracies against the laws of the U.S.
Martin faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, according to a government press release.
The USDA Office of the Inspector General and the FBI investigated the case.