Former Procurement manager testifies in South Bend Housing Authority Fraud Case

NOW: Former Procurement manager testifies in South Bend Housing Authority Fraud Case

UPDATE: On October 1, all three defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.


SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The former procurement manager for South Bend Housing Authority took the witness stand took place Monday afternoon for day six of the ongoing SBHA fraud trial.

The trial involves former executive director Tonya Robinson and co-defendants, Albert Smith and Doug Donnelly, who are accused of stealing millions of dollars from the Housing Authority by writing checks to contractors for a number of improvements that investigators say were never completed.

Prosecutors called their final witness to the stand before resting their case after five days of testimony.

The defense then got the chance to call upon their first witness, former procurement manager of the South Bend Housing Authority, Steve Peterson who worked for the agency from 1998 to 2019.

Peterson, who told the jury he struggles with dyslexia and ADD says nothing fraudulent could’ve happened under his watch and the checks and balances in place.

However, Peterson’s initials can be found signing off on a number of invoices and green sheets riddled with misspellings, that weren’t inspected.

He admits it’s likely he made a number of mistakes on his work and possibly lost paperwork when the housing authority went paperless in 2014, which was then caught by auditors.

However, he insisted that former housing authority executive directors Tonya Robinson had nothing to do with it.

Peterson said he left his job at the housing authority after he didn’t like the way Tonya Robinson was dismissed in 2019.

Phone records shown in the cross examination of Peterson then revealed he was sending Robinson sexually explicit strings of text messages, she wouldn’t reply to.

For years, he told her he was in love with her, and she was his true love, even saying, “I’ll follow wherever you lead”.

He was never reprimanded by Ms. Robinson for his messages.  

Albert Smith’s wife also took the stand for the defense, saying she would sometimes play using his casino card and he didn’t always have it in the machine, so the numbers for his wins and losses could be inaccurate.

Monday Afternoon, defense attorneys said the three remaining people on trial in the case are likely to not testify.

Court will resume Tuesday at 9:30, the defenses final witness is set to take the stand, and both sides will give their closing statements.

The jury could come to a verdict as soon as Wednesday morning.

Click here for more of our coverage of the case.

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