December 13, 2018

Former Hartford nonprofit head pleads guilty to embezzlement

The former president of a Hartford nonprofit pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing federal funds meant to benefit low-income people with health challenges, prosecutors say.

Steven F. Harvin, 53, of New Haven, pleaded guilty in Hartford district court to one count of theft from programs receiving federal funds, the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Harvin faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced March 5. He is free on $50,000 bond pending sentencing, prosecutors said.

Harvin was arrested in June.

According to investigators, Harvin served as president of Zezzo House, a Homestead Avenue-based nonprofit housing individuals and families with health challenges, including HIV and AIDS, from around Aug. 2015 to Sept. 2016.

Investigators said Harvin, also a reverend, from about Jan. 2016 to Aug. 2016 diverted $25,120 in federal funds to his personal use.

The federal money came from the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program, which is dedicated to the housing needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Under the program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) makes grants to states, local communities and nonprofits for projects supporting low-income people suffering from HIV and AIDS, and their families.

HUD provides money to the city of Hartford, which awards funds to nonprofit organizations like Zezzo House, prosecutors said.

During the 2016 scheme, investigators said Harvin embezzled $25,120 of the $70,722 Zuzzo received in HOPWA funds. He stole the money through cash withdrawals, spent a portion of the money on ineligible Zezzo House expenses and didn't account for the use of other funds.

Harvin also diverted funds from Zuzzo's Section 8 funding, which provides federally subsidized housing to low-income individuals, to his personal use, investigators said.

The case is being investigated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General and the Hartford Police Department.

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