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Former Buffalo housing counselor admits fraud

Lori J. Macakanja, 35, of Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and theft of government money.

Macakanja, in her capacity as a housing counselor employed by HomeFront Inc., inappropriately requested money from clients, telling them it would be used toward loan modifications to prevent foreclosure on their homes. However, Macakanja used the money for herself, including gambling, and failed to obtain the loan modifications for the victims, according to Christy L. Romero, acting special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

A total of 136 HomeFront clients were defrauded of $300,000. In addition, Macakanja obtained federal grant monies from the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency for HomeFront clients. On two occasions, she diverted $2,000 worth of BURA money to pay her own personal mortgage.

“The defendant took advantage of her clients’ trust, and gambled away her victims’ hard earned money,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2 before U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.