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Former South Bend Housing Authority contractor pleads guilty to federal fraud charges

Justin Hicks
The FBI raided the South Bend Housing Authority's office in 2019 as part of an investigation into the scheme.

A former South Bend Housing Authority contractor has pled guilty to federal fraud charges. He’s one of five former employees and contractors, including former Executive Director Tonya Robinson, who were indicted last July on multiple counts of wire and bank fraud.

Prosecutors allege the group stole over $5.8 million dollars from the federal government through a kickback scheme. The contractors allegedly created and cashed fake payment checks for work that didn’t occur while giving a cut of the proceeds to housing authority employees, including the former executive director.

And now, former contractor Archie Robinson has admitted that he did just that as part of a plea agreement filed last week.

According to the agreement, Robinson said his company, Kleaning to Renovations Inc, was hired by the housing authority in 2014 to do renovations and other contracting work at various residential units.

Robinson said that he had an arrangement with housing authority employees Albert Smith and Tonya Robinson where he was given checks for contracting work that never occurred. He would deposit those fraudulent checks in his bank account, withdraw a portion in cash and give it to Albert Smith or Tonya Robinson.

Generally, Robinson said they would split the money three ways. After Smith left the housing authority in 2019, he said Tonya Robinson approached him to continue the scheme and they began to split the money in half.

According to court documents, Robinson will plead guilty to two counts of bank fraud. In exchange, prosecutors will agree to drop his seven other charges. He must also pay back restitution and a $20,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan.

The deal will be finalized by judge Michael Gotsch at an early May hearing. Robinson could serve up to 60 years in prison, but the deal says prosecutors will recommend a lighter sentence in light of his cooperation.

Trials for the other defendants in the scheme have been pushed back to March 2023.

Following the indictments in July 2021, the housing authority’s current director Catherine Lamberg said the agency would be more transparent as part of an effort to regain the community’s trust.

Several weeks before the indictments were announced, a South Bend Tribune investigation revealed conditions at the housing authority’s properties were some of the worst in the state.

The authority has announced plans to demolish and replace the troubled Rabbi Shulman Apartments after the complex was declared unsafe in November 2020 and all residents were forced to move out.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.