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Thursday, January 28, 2010

City-Contracted Sales Agent Charged With Scamming Low-Income Housing Applicants

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 1:20 PM

An affordable-housing sales agent working under contract for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has been charged with stealing from 19 Asian-American residents of San Francisco who were seeking below-market-rate homes.

click to enlarge Chow is charged with setting up a lucrative affordable-housing scam
  • Chow is charged with setting up a lucrative affordable-housing scam
Kan Yin Chow, 51, has been charged with 41 felony counts and was being held on $615,000 bail, District Attorney Kamala Harris said at a press conference this morning. Chow is alleged to have stolen roughly $35,000 from his victims.

"He took advantage of vulnerable individuals who were simply seeking to have access to better and more affordable housing," Harris said. "If he was a public official, he probably would have been charged with bribery."

Chow allegedly solicited fees in the thousands of dollars from housing applicants, promising them that the money would help ensure that they would be placed in homes. Many of the Asian-American applicants did not speak English well and depended on Chow to explain the workings of the program to them, according to the DA's office.

He was working with Homebricks, a subsidiary of BRIDGE Housing Corp., a low-income housing developer working under contract for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. BRIDGE spokeswoman Lyn Hikida said at today's press conference that Chow had passed the normal standards for reviewing employees, though he had not been subject to a criminal-background check. At the request of the redevelopment agency, BRIDGE is now conducting such background checks on prospective employees, Hikida said.

"This individual has clouded the reputation of all affordable housing," said Olson Lee, deputy executive director at the redevelopment agency.

In response to questions about how Chow was able to steal from so many people while acting on behalf of the city, Harris said he had served as a "gatekeeper" to an insular ethnic community with little knowledge of how city housing programs work, other than what they learned through Chow. "You have victims who because of language or cultural barriers feel like they don't have access to government," Harris said.

In addition to the charges related to the housing scam, Chow is charged with identity theft for charging about $70,000 to credit accounts in the names of his ex-wife and daughter without their permission.

Photo   |   AMagill

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Peter Jamison

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