Former Pierce Co. Housing Authority finance director accused of stealing $7 million in public funds

TACOMA, Wash. -- A "trusted" long-time former finance director for the Pierce County Housing Authority is accused of stealing millions of dollars more in public funds than originally believed.

As Q13 News reported in August, the housing authority filed a lawsuit against former finance director Cova Campbell, claiming she and her husband Mark started diverting public money into private accounts about three years ago.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, it was believed the couple had stolen more than $4 million. Now, the state Auditor's Office says the couple stole almost $7 million from the agency tasked with providing affordable housing to roughly 4,000 low-income residents every year.

The auditor's office says this is the largest misappropriations case on record for a local government in Washington state.

According to the auditor's office, Campbell allegedly used a variety of schemes to misappropriate $6.95 million since 2016.

The theft was uncovered during a routine audit, when auditors questioned wire transfers of large sums of money out of state.

The former finance director began making fraudulent purchases on the housing authority’s credit cards in March 2016, according to the auditor's office.

In July 2016, she made the first of 78 transactions that disguised transfers to her own account as batched payments to legitimate vendors, substituting her own bank account number for the vendors’ account numbers.

In 2018, she transferred housing authority funds to a bank in Oklahoma, the state where she and her husband spent $1.96 million on 310 acres of real estate.  In 2019, she began directly wiring housing authority funds into her personal Washington bank account, according to the auditor's office.

Campbell admitted taking the money to the auditor's office, but claimed that the housing authority's executive director told her to do it and give him a share of the cash. The auditor's office found no evidence to support Campbell's claims.

Click here to see the full auditor's report.