Director Of Community Development Of Non-Profit Corporation And Six Others Indicted For Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds

Date Published: 
October 6, 2017
News Type: 
Press Releases

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The former Director of Community Development for the National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST), a non-profit Nevada corporation created in 2008 in response to the national mortgage-housing foreclosure crisis, and four of six co-defendants made their initial appearances in federal court Wednesday on charges related to a bribery scheme involving NCST homes, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge James Todak of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG).

The 14-count indictment, filed under seal on Sept. 26, was unsealed Wednesday in federal court. The indictment charges Sergio Barajas, 50, of Chino, Calif.; Alan Cassell, 47, of Chula Vista, Calif.; Elena Millner, 40, of Boerne, Texas; Benjamin Stuelke, 35, of Anaheim, Calif.; Michelle Acosta, aka Michelle Mullens, 33, of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; Art Acosta, 55, of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; and Ernesto Garcia, 45, of Upland, Calif., with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. Stuelke and Garcia are also charged with bank fraud. Defendants Barajas, Cassell, Michelle and Art Acosta, and Garcia made their initial appearances in court before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach.

According to the indictment, from October 2010 to September 2015, Barajas, in his role as Director of Community Development, was involved in the approval of non-profits to participate in the NCST First Look Program and in the determination of which non-profit was ultimately awarded NCST homes, as well as provided oversight of the resale of NCST homes to ensure compliance with NCST and Neighborhood Stabilization Program guidelines. The NCST received more than $10,000 of federal grants during each 12 month fiscal year that Barajas served as the Director of Community Development...