Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fraud sentencings for ex-South Bend Housing Authority leaders as lawyers argue right amount of prison time

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

A sentencing for former leaders of South Bend’s Housing Authority set for Thursday has been postponed as prosecutors and Tonya Robinson disagree on how long she should be sent to prison.

Robinson stands convicted of multiple counts of bank fraud for leading a scheme to steal millions of dollars from the federal government during her time as director of the South Bend Housing Authority. At a trial which ended in early November, jurors convicted Robinson of writing checks to contractors for repair work that was never done. The contractors would then cash the checks and and kick back a portion of the money to Robinson and Albert Smith, the housing authority's assistant director at the time who was also convicted in the scheme.

Robinson was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, but U.S. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio has postponed the hearing to consider opposing arguments on how much prison time the 61-year-old should receive.

A third person convicted at trial last year, Doug Donley, was sentenced Thursday to a little over two years in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.

Attorneys for Robinson are seeking a three-year sentence followed by house arrest or probation, while federal prosecutors believe 14 years in prison is appropriate. Federal sentencing statutes are complex with 43 different sentencing levels that depend on a number of factors such as the severity of the crime (how injured someone was or how much money was stolen), whether it involved weapons, who the crime affected and the defendant's criminal history.

Prosecutors believe the amount of money stolen, the fact Robinson was the leader of the operation and the complexity of the scheme all increase the expected sentence.

In a competing legal filing, Robinson, concedes there should be an enhancement due to her position as a public official. However, that enhancement already accounts for her leadership position, Robinson argues, so the government is double counting that factor in it's recommendation. Robinson also argues writing checks for work that was never completed isn’t complex enough to warrant added prison time.

All told, six people were charged in the scheme that likely stole somewhere between $3-4 million. Robinson and Albert Smith, the two leaders of the housing authority during the mid 2010s both were convicted of most criminal counts brought against them at trial.

Three other people implicated in the scheme pleaded guilty and testified against their co-defendants at the trial. Tyreisha Robinson, Tonya Robinson's daughter, was an employee of the housing authority at the time and was given no only time served and ordered to pay $360,000 in restitution. Contractor Archie Robinson (no relation to the other Robinsons) received six months and Ronald Taylor, another contractor, received over 3.5 years, though Taylor has a more extensive criminal history.

A date for sentencings for Tonya Robinson and Smith have not been rescheduled as of Thursday afternoon.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.