ANDERSON — A Pendleton woman is facing felony charges of welfare fraud related to a program created to assist families hardest hit by the economic and housing market downturn.
Natasha Gayle Banister, 38, is charged with six counts of Level 6 felony welfare fraud. She was arrested on Nov. 8.
Authorities with the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program accuse Banister of submitting false documents and false certifications in 2014 and 2015 in support of the application for mortgage assistance on property solely owned by her boyfriend Robert Summers.
Summers was incarcerated at the time Banister is accused of committing the felonies.
Banister and Summers were the recipients of $28,514 of fraudulently obtained governmental mortgage assistance, according to an affidavit of probable cause by Brandon Currie with the Office of the Special Inspector General.
The assistance program required borrowers to be enrolled in counseling; engaged in approved training, education or structured volunteer work; owning only one home; submission of hardship affidavit documenting inability to pay the mortgage; being unemployed and eligible for unemployment insurance; and being “on the mortgage, that is, financially responsible to the lender.”
According to an investigation documented by Currie, Summers purchased a home in Pendleton in June 2009. From the time the home was purchased until April 2014, Summers and Banister lived together in the home.
On April 7, 2014, Summers was incarcerated and remained in prison or a halfway house until Nov. 2, 2015, when he returned to the home to serve home detention. Summers remained in the home until August 2015, according to the affidavit.
The documents Banister is accused of submitting for governmental assistance include documentation that he participated in job training or education requirements and he was living at the address in Pendleton, Currie wrote.
Summers told authorities he did not complete training or education when he was in prison except for an unrelated Microsoft class, according to the affidavit.
“When interviewed, Summers denied knowledge for the 2014 mortgage assistance claim, which seems unlikely since the mortgage assistance directly benefited his solely owned property,” Currie wrote in the affidavit.