The Pierce County Housing Authority has approved a tentative agreement with its former finance director, who is accused of stealing nearly $7 million from the organization. Cova Campbell, who was recently indicted on four counts of federal wire fraud, has agreed to pay back some of the money she’s accused of stealing.
According to a release from the housing agency, the agreement has been approved by both the state Attorney General’s Office and the state Auditor’s Office, which uncovered the misappropriated funds late last year.
State Auditor Pat McCarthy has said the theft is believed to be the largest misappropriation of public funds on record in Washington state.
On March 2, authorities arrested Campbell in Oklahoma, a day before the four-count indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Campbell was fired from the Pierce County Housing Authority last summer after an auditor's report said she took millions for personal use, including the purchase of property in Oklahoma.
“This begins the restitution of assets,” said Sally Porter Smith, chair of the housing authority’s board, in a statement released Friday. “The agency secured the right to take everything that Campbell and her husband claim and investigators have identified in their possession. If it turns out that they haven’t been truthful, we will go back to court to get the money or anything purchased with the money she stole.”
In her statement, Smith added that while the recovery doesn’t make the agency whole, the recovered funds and proceeds of insurance create a more manageable financial situation moving forward. She said that — combined with the new procedures implemented at the recommendation of state auditors and the federal Housing and Urban Development department — will help “prevent this from ever happening again.”
The agency also announced that its executive director, Charlie Gray, is returning to his post. Campbell initially accused Gray of participating in the fraud scheme. State auditors found no evidence supporting the claims. Gray will return to the housing authority April 1.