Scammer who stole rent from low-income tenants fights restitution


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A former employee of the Grand Rapids Housing Commission convicted of stealing rent checks is fighting over the amount of restitution she was ordered to pay.

Esther Cecilia McMurray, 52 from Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty in July 2020 to embezzling funds from a non-profit organization.

Kent County prosecutors said McMurray stole rent payments in the form of checks and money orders from 20 to 30 residents of subsidized housing complexes over a three-and-a-half-year period.

The violation dates ranged from December 2015 to May 2019.

It is not known why it took so long for the Grand Rapids Housing Commission to identify the embezzlement.

Now McMurray argues that she shouldn’t have to pay the $ 20,627 in restitution because she gave back to the housing commission some of the money she stole.

McMurray’s rendition hearing on Thursday has been postponed so that key witnesses can attend.


Meanwhile, one of McMurray’s victims speaks out.

“Because it happened to me, it could happen to someone else,” Tachianna Walton said in an interview with News 8. “If you feel like something is wrong, follow your first instincts. Be firm Be smart Investigate the situation fully.

Walton, who still lives with her daughter in Campau Commons, said she had to go to court several times for non-payment of rent despite payment.

“I felt like (the Housing Commission) should have listened to me when I kept telling them, ‘Hey, there’s something wrong. I paid you a money order. I don’t know where it is, but I have proof that I paid you my rent, ”said Walton, who showed News 8 several warrant stubs indicating they had been received.

Walton said she made several rent payments to Esther McMurray, who worked in the Campau Commons office at the time.

“It cost me dearly. It was stressful, ”Walton said of the theft of his rent payments.

“My daughter would ask me, ‘Are we going to be kicked out because you’re late?’ I’m like ‘no don’t worry about that mom got that,’ ”recalls Walton, who said the housing commission ultimately didn’t try to evict him.

“They’re like, ‘we don’t want to kick you out, we’re going to work with you the best we can.’ And I’m like ‘OK, but something’s wrong here. Something’s going on. Someone is stealing my warrants.’ “

A single mom, Walton said she already struggles to pay the bills with the money she earns from her manufacturing job.

She thinks the housing commission should have caught the embezzlement earlier.

Robert S. Womack, a Kent County commissioner, radio personality and parent of Walton, agreed.

“I am very upset and troubled to have women come to me and tell me that they had to pay back their rent, that they had a hard time, that someone stole them who worked on the housing commission. “said Womack, who wanted the victims. be reimbursed in full.

Lindsey Reames, the new executive director of the Grand Rapids Housing Commission, told News 8 she couldn’t say much because of the ongoing lawsuit.

Reames said that – to his knowledge – the housing commission had cured the affected residents.

She also said the commission changed policies and procedures to prevent such crimes from happening again.

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