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Defendant Admitted He Lied on Government Forms and Wrongfully Claimed Eligibility for Housing Assistance for More Than a Decade

SAN FRANCISCO – Gregory Finkelson, a San Francisco resident, has pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government property in connection with his fraudulent receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in low-income housing benefits, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Special Agent in Charge Mark Kaminsky; and IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent in Charge Michael Mosley of the Oakland Field Office. Finkelson’s guilty plea was accepted by the Hon. James Donato, United States District Judge, on May 6, 2024.

The Section 8 Certificate Program is a rent subsidy program funded by HUD and administered jointly in San Francisco by HUD and the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA). The program is intended to help low- and moderate-income families afford housing, and it has income limits and other eligibility requirements that applicants must meet to qualify for assistance.

In his plea agreement, Finkelson, 64, admitted that, between approximately August 2006 and February 2020, he wrongfully claimed $341,455 in Section 8 Program subsidies by lying about his income and his ownership of (i) a San Francisco residence he purchased in 2005 that is now valued at approximately $2.4 million; and (ii) a business he ran out of his residence. He then used the funds he fraudulently obtained to benefit himself, including by funding his business, paying his credit card bills, and making payments on a timeshare in Hawaii.

“This defendant fraudulently obtained housing benefits designated for some of the neediest individuals in our society and used them to enrich himself,” said United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey. “I am proud of the work this Office does to prosecute those who defraud the government, particularly where, as here, it is low-income families who suffer the most as a result of the defendant’s selfish conduct.”

“Finkelson stole money that was intended to provide safe housing for low-income families and used it for his own self-enrichment,” said HUD OIG Special Agent in Charge Mark Kaminsky. “HUD OIG will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to diligently pursue and hold accountable bad actors who willfully misuse federal assets.”

“Today’s plea makes clear that greed does not pay. For years, Finkelson took advantage of Section 8 housing assistance funds by using nominee ownership to conceal his ill-gotten gains while simply lining his own pockets,” said CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Mosley. “Our agents are experts at following the money and building cases that help bring financial criminals to justice.”

Finkelson admitted that, as part of his scheme, he used the name of a Russian national living in Russia to purchase his San Francisco home, claiming, wrongfully, that she was his landlord and that he made rent payments to her. Finkelson also admitted he opened several bank accounts, including in the Russian national’s name, and that he used these bank accounts to conceal his use of the ill-gotten Section 8 Program subsidies.

Finally, pursuant to his plea agreement, Finkelson agreed to pay at least $341,455 in restitution, which represents the total amount he admitted he stole from the government.

Finkelson was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 25, 2023. He pleaded guilty this week to one count of theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 641 & 2, for which he faces a statutory maximum prison term of 10 years. In addition, as part of any sentence, the court may order the defendant to pay a fine of up to $250,000 and to serve a term of supervised release of up to three years. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Judge Donato has scheduled Finkelson’s sentencing hearing for September 9, 2024.

Assistant United States Attorneys Christiaan Highsmith and Kevin Yeh are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Claudia Hyslop and Laurence Macaraeg. The prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI, HUD OIG, and CI, with assistance from SFHA.