New Bern mother and daughter sentenced for defrauding COVID-19 Housing Program

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) -Two New Bern family members were sentenced for defrauding a program designed to help North Carolina residents stay in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Takeeia Hawkins, 43, received three years in prison, and her daughter, Shanasia Hawkins, 22, received one year and three months in prison, both pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud earlier this year.

The Hawkins’ falsely claimed to be landlords with tenants unable to pay rent due to the pandemic, submitting fraudulent applications to the NC HOPE Program and receiving nearly $150,000 in federal funds, which they largely spent on gifts and gambling.

“This case represents yet another example of the greedy taking from the needy,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “COVID-19 monies were set aside to help struggling families pay their rent, and these defendants stole it.”

Several other family members and acquaintances, including Takeeia Hawkins’ son, Jmari Hawkins, 24, Jonell Ojeda, 23, and Tevin Evans, 26, also pled guilty and are set to be sentenced later this summer for attempting to defraud the NC HOPE Program out of more than $850,000 and obtaining over $250,000 in stolen funds.  

The NC HOPE Program provided emergency rental assistance to North Carolina renters facing eviction and homelessness during the pandemic.