Federal authorities are investigating whether employees at Alexandria's housing authority have been doling out low-income housing vouchers to friends, according to city officials and law enforcement sources.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development raided the housing authority offices Tuesday, carting away boxes and files relating to the agency's oversight of the Section 8 housing program dating to 2000, city officials said yesterday.

For more than a year, federal prosecutors in Alexandria have been investigating allegations that employees of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority gave Section 8 housing vouchers to friends rather than to residents based on need, law enforcement sources said. The vouchers are for federal funds that help needy residents pay their rent.

The exact scope of the probe could not be learned, and it was unclear whether or when criminal charges would be filed, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

The housing authority's duties include disbursing Section 8 vouchers and overseeing Alexandria's 1,150 public housing dwellings. Described by the city as a "political subdivision" of the state and not a city agency, it is funded by the state and federal governments, but the city appoints the housing authority's nine-member board of commissioners.

The executive director, William Dearman, confirmed yesterday that the housing authority had been served with two subpoenas seeking records and files. He declined to elaborate, and Marye Ish, the staff member who runs the Section 8 program, did not return telephone calls.

City spokesman Steve Mason said HUD investigators were looking for "records and documents" related to the Section 8 voucher program. "We don't know the specifics yet. We have not seen the subpoenas. We're not sure what they're looking for," Mason said.

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille (D) vowed that the city would cooperate. "When folks at this level come to your place of business or your home, any allegations of wrongdoing need to be taken seriously," Euille said.

Federal prosecutors in Alexandria declined to comment, as did Michael Zerega, a spokesman for HUD's Office of Inspector General. The office audits agencies that distribute public housing funds and can start a criminal investigation when something unusual is found.

Leslie Hagan, an Alexandria housing commissioner, said HUD had been conducting a routine audit of the authority's operations since spring. The authority had been awaiting a final report on the audit before Tuesday's unexpected visit from investigators.

Euille said he got an early-morning phone call from Dearman on Tuesday as he was driving to City Hall, telling him that HUD investigators were at the Roth Street offices serving the subpoenas.

The mayor said he planned to get further details of the investigation this morning by meeting with Dearman and A. Melvin Miller, chairman of the authority's board, who was traveling yesterday and could not be reached.

"As mayor, I take seriously any allegations of wrongdoing, and I support this investigation," Euille said. "Hopefully, this will conclude promptly so citizens won't suffer any adverse impact."

Staff writer Yolanda Woodlee contributed to this report.