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Former NFHA Executive Director, daughter-in-law receive probation for stealing funds

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The former long-time head of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority has been sentenced to two years probation and a $2,000 fine for stealing government funds.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Stephanie Cowart, 59 of Grand Island, avoided jail time for stealing $6,000 in federal funds from the Housing Authority between 2013 and 2015, when she was Executive Director. Cowart's daughter-in-law, Fredia, 28 of Niagara Falls, also was given probation - for one year - on a misdemeanor charge for stealing funds. Authorities say both have paid full restitution of $17,000.

"The money was to be used for 'A Better Me,' a project that was to teach children and youth the importance of proper etiquette, what bullying is and what they can do about it and to teach educational empowerment tools,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Ippolito, but no work was done.

Ippolito said Fredia's husband, Allen, also was paid for work he did not perform.

"Allen Cowart falsely claimed that he was performing the work of two teachers under the Advantage After School Program and was paid more than two times the normal hourly pay rate for one teacher position," he said.

Allen Cowart was previously convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9.

“In stealing public funds, the defendant put her own interests ahead not only of taxpayers but of the very people she was supposed to be helping,” said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy.

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