A warrant has gone out for the arrest of a former Lincoln caseworker who allegedly made false applications for emergency rental aid and took a cut of the money.

Laura L. Graham, 34, was charged Thursday with felony theft over $5,000 and attempted theft over $5,000, and a warrant went out for her arrest.

In an affidavit for Graham’s arrest, Lincoln Police Officer Don Fosler said she had been employed as a Lincoln/Lancaster County Prevention Assistance Common Fund case manager with Family Services. As part of the job, Graham processed applications for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, for those who couldn’t pay rent or utilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fosler said in late October he began his investigation after an employee with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Urban Development Department, which screens emergency rental assistance applications, asked Graham to get a utility bill for proof of residency on an application and discovered the LES bill she provided had been altered.

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Fosler said he conducted investigations into additional emergency rental assistance applications of concern that already had been processed, including one for $14,800 in April 2021 and other for $26,040 in June 2020.

He learned the woman listed as the tenant on the first application had never lived in Lincoln, though her daughter did and allegedly had made more than 100 calls to Graham in the same time period $14,800 in rental assistance had been approved to the woman’s mother.

Graham’s account received $6,825 shortly after the funds were deposited, Fosler said.

In the later application, he learned, the tenants’ names had been fabricated and never lived at the Lincoln address. The landlord, Alyssa Rodriguez, was charged with theft in April.

Fosler said cellphone records show Rodriguez and Graham had more than 400 calls between their cellphones over the course of the year. He said bank records show Rodriguez transferred $4,500 to Graham after getting the funds. 

In court records, Fosler described two other applications where Graham had allegedly entered false information. He said in one a Lincoln woman told him Graham had helped her legitimately receive mortgage assistance in 2021, then altered her application to say that two people were renting from her in an attempt to get more money, half of which she would keep.

The woman knew something was wrong and stopped trying to get rental assistance.

In the other, he said, Graham allegedly altered an LES bill to help an Omaha woman qualify for $8,850 in ERA money.

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