Skip to main content

Owner of $2.4M home admits to pilfering rent subsidies

A leader of the notorious MS-13 street gang in San Francisco's Mission District has been sentenced to life in prison.
The feds say a San Francisco businessman claimed poverty to pilfer hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to house needy families. | Source: RJ Mickelson/The Standard

The owner of a $2.4 million San Francisco home has pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of taxpayer dollars meant to house needy families so he could fund his business, pay down credit card debt and secure a Hawaii timeshare, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Gregory Finkelson, 64, admitted he wrongfully claimed $341,455 of Section 8 subsidies from August 2006 to February 2020 by lying about owning a home and how much money he made from his corporate law and tax planning firm.

Finkelson used a Russian national's name to purchase a San Francisco home in 2005, falsely claiming her as his landlord, authorities say. He allegedly opened multiple bank accounts, some in her name, to conceal his ill-gotten gains from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides the rent subsidies.

"This defendant fraudulently obtained housing benefits designated for some of the neediest individuals in our society and used them to enrich himself," U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey said in announcing the plea deal this week.

The investigation by the FBI, HUD and IRS culminated in July 2023 when a federal grand jury indicted Finkelson, charging him with conspiracy, theft of government property and three counts of money laundering.

Federal prosecutors said Finkelson claimed he made just $12,000 per year as a notary public for American Corporate Services so he could qualify for Section 8. In reality, officials said, he was the sole proprietor of the San Francisco-based firm, which claims to serve 7,000 clients through branches in several states. American Corporate Services raked in $2.8 million in gross income between 2013 and 2018.

Finkelson pleaded guilty earlier this week to one count of theft of government property before U.S. District Judge James Donato. He faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced Sept. 9, as well as a possible $250,000 fine and supervised release of up to three years.

As part of his plea deal, Finkelson agreed to pay back at least as much as he stole.