Former Chatham housing director gets 30 month prison term


GREENSBORO — The former director of the Chatham County Housing Authority (CCHA) was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges last week in federal court.

Joann Johnson Davis, 65, plead guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud from her time as director of the Chatham Housing Authority. In addition to the prison sentence, she will have two years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay restitution of $194,136.

Evidence presented during sentencing by the FBI and the Housing and Urban Development Inspector General showed that Davis had engaged in a fraudulent bid-rigging conspiracy between 2016 and 2020 while she served as the Executive Director for the CCHA.

Among other things, the housing authority oversees federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development including the Housing Choice Voucher Program, better known as “Section 8.”

As executive director, Davis used her position to direct contracts to friends and relatives by generating false bid proposals to justify the costs associated with her preferred vendors. She also used stolen identities and fraudulent letterhead of existing businesses to lend legitimacy to the fake bids.

These contracts, handed out with no assessment of qualification or costs, often resulted in no actual work taking place. Prosecutors identified more than a dozen friends or family of Davis who received fraudulent contracts. More than $200,000 was spent on these illicit projects, with Davis receiving kickbacks from several contract recipients.

“Access to decent, safe, and sanitary housing is a basic human need,” said Sandra J. Hairston, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina in a statement. “Misappropriating funds intended to help people afford decent housing is unconscionable, and we are grateful to the agencies that investigated this conduct and helped hold this defendant accountable.”

“JoAnn Davis was entrusted to spend money intended to help improve the lives of others,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert DeWitt. “She abused that trust by misusing the government funding to enrich her own life and the lives of her family and friends. The FBI is committed to hold accountable anyone who commits this type of fraud.”

Two co-defendants, Clintess Roberta Barrett-Johnson, 55, of Durham, and Mi’chelle Necole Bell-Johnson, 34, of Charlotte, also plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Last year, Barrett-Johnson was sentenced to four years probation plus $57,179 in restitution, and Bell-Johnson to three years probation plus $83,977 in restitution.

The sentencing puts an end to a long-running drama that saw Davis charged with wire fraud nearly a year ago, in February 2023, and placed on unpaid leave from the housing authority nearly a month later.