EVANSVILLE, INDIANA – The executive director of Echo Housing, a non-profit that helps underserved people find affordable housing is going to jail for stealing $102,000 from the organization.
Acting United States Attorney John Childress announced today that Stephanie TenBarge, 73, of Evansville, Indiana, was sentenced to two years’ probation by U.S. District Judge Richard Young. TenBarge previously worked as the Executive Director at Echo Housing Corporation, where she embezzled more than $102,000 of funds over a three-year period from the organization which received federal, state, and local tax dollars.
Echo Housing Corporation is a non-profit organization based in Evansville. Echo’s mission is to create and sustain safe and affordable housing, provide supportive services, and promote community development for homeless men, women, children, and veterans.
“The citizens of Vanderburgh County and the State of Indiana deserve better from officials in positions of trust,” said Childress. “Citizens should be confident that taxpayer funds are used to help those in need, not line the pockets of those in power.”
The Department of Justice reports:
TenBarge served as Executive Director of Echo Housing Corporation and in that role had the primary responsibilities of bookkeeping, balancing bank statements, and preparing finance reports and records for Echo’s Board of Directors to approve. TenBarge maintained and controlled Echo’s checking accounts and had the ability to direct funds from the organization’s accounts to herself and other individuals.
From January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017, TenBarge embezzled funds from Echo Housing Corporation by making unauthorized payments to herself and issuing unauthorized payroll checks to herself. In addition, TenBarge used Echo funds to pay property taxes for her personal residence; purchase a heat pump for her home; and pay individuals to perform maintenance inside her home and the surrounding property. During this time period, Echo received federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
This investigation was a collaborative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Evansville Police Department, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, Indiana State Board of Accounts, and United States Secret Service.
“Ms. TenBarge abused her official position to pad her pockets with taxpayer funds for nothing more than simple greed and, in doing so, victimized those she should have been serving,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue our mission to root out public officials who commit federal crimes and ensure they are held accountable for their actions.”
“This case should serve as a reminder that the American people will not stand for those in power to take advantage of their position and take from those they have been charged to help,” said Eric Reed, Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis Field Office. “The Secret Service is proud to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, Evansville Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, especially on cases as important as this one.”
“This sentencing represents our continuing resolve to root out fraud and corruption in all forms, particularly when the programs involved should have been used to help our neediest families,” said HUD OIG Special Agent in Charge Brad Geary. “It is our continuing core mission to work with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to protect the integrity of our housing programs and to take strong action against those who seek to illegally benefit from them.”
According to Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Sawa, who prosecuted this case for the government, TenBarge must also pay $90,513.95 in restitution to Echo Housing Corporation.
In November of 2020, Acting United States Attorney John E. Childress renewed a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s enduring commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in fraud and violate the public trust. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Section 5.3.