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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
RICHMOND DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff; and
HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES MADE
EQUAL OF RICHMOND, INC.;
ROKENA DUNAWAY; and LARRY
B. HALL, JR.,
Plaintiff-intervenors,

v.

RICHMOND 10-72 LTD.,
PROVIDENT GROUP CO.,
PROVIDENT UNITED, INC.,
MICHAEL BRAUNSTEIN,
JOHN W. HELGERSON, and
RITA BAINES LEWIS,

Defendants.

_______________________________

PLAINTIFF UNITED STATES'
FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

The United States alleges:

  • This action is brought by the United States to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.

    Jurisdiction and Venue

  • This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o), and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).

  • Venue is proper in that the claims alleged herein arose in the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.

    Parties

  • Wedgewood Village Apartments ("the subject property") is a 160-unit apartment complex located at Needham Court in Richmond, Virginia. The units located within this apartment complex are "dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

  • At all times relevant to this action, defendant Richmond 10-72 Ltd. has been the owner of Wedgewood Village Apartments. It is legally responsible for the management of Wedgewood Village Apartments. Richmond 10-72 Ltd. maintains its principal place of business at 4312 Westport Road, Columbus, Ohio.

  • At all times relevant to this action, defendant Provident Group Co. has been the sole General Partner of Richmond 10-72 Ltd. It is legally responsible for the management of Wedgewood Village Apartments. Provident Groups Co. maintains its principal place of business at 4312 Westport Road, Columbus, Ohio.

  • At all times relevant to this action, defendants Provident United, Inc., Michael Braunstein and John W. Helgerson have been General Partners of defendant Provident Group Co. They are legally responsible for the management of Wedgewood Village Apartments. In addition, at all times relevant to this action, defendant Michael Braunstein has been president of defendant Provident United, Inc. He is legally responsible for the management of Wedgewood Village Apartments as a consequence of this position. Defendants Provident United, Inc., Michael Braunstein and John W. Helgerson maintain their principal place of business at 4312 Westport Road, Columbus, Ohio.

  • At all times relevant to this litigation, defendant Rita Baines Lewis was employed as the Residential Manager of Wedgewood Village Apartments. In this capacity, she maintained the applicant files for Wedgewood Village Apartments and made tenant selection decisions. She resides in Quinton, Virginia.

    I. Individual Violation (H.O.M.E.)

  • Plaintiff realleges and herein incorporates by reference the averments set forth in paragraphs 1-8, above.

  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Richmond, Inc. ("H.O.M.E.") is a private non-profit fair housing organization located at 1218 West Cary Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220. It was established in 1971 to ensure the right of every individual to the decent and affordable housing of his or her choice. H.O.M.E. engages in activities to identify barriers to fair housing and to help counteract and eliminate discriminatory housing practices. In support of its goals, H.O.M.E. engages in a variety of education, counseling and referral services and conducts tests for housing discrimination throughout the Richmond metropolitan area. In doing so, H.O.M.E. represents the interests of all citizens to be free of discrimination. In addition, it provides support and assistance to victims of housing discrimination.

  • On or about March 26, 1993, H.O.M.E. filed an administrative complaint with the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The administrative complaint was amended on March 24, 1997, and October 17, 1997. As amended, the administrative complaint alleged that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., by discouraging members of a protected class (African Americans) from applying for the rental of apartment units at Wedgewood Village Apartments on the basis of their race or color, manipulating the application list to give priority to Caucasian applicants and by making discriminatory statements against African Americans.

  • Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation of H.O.M.E.'s administrative complaint, attempted conciliation without success and prepared a final investigative report. Based on information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred. On November 21, 1997, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging the defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

  • The events and circumstances that formed the basis for the Secretary's Charge of Discrimination included the following:

    1. On October 9, 1991, October 31, 1991 and January 27, 1993, both an African American tester and a Caucasian tester visited the rental offices at Wedgewood Village Apartments. On each occasion, by her conduct and comments, defendant Lewis discouraged the African American tester from applying for an apartment while encouraging the Caucasian tester to apply.

    2. Although defendant Lewis told a HUD investigator that she provides applications to every prospective tenant, Larry B. Hall, Jr., an African American male, was not given an application by Lewis when he inquired about tenancy at the subject property in March of 1997. He was not asked the size of the unit he was seeking or any questions regarding his income. He was falsely advised that there was a two-year wait for units. He was also advised that Wedgewood Village Apartments was subsidized by the federal government and was informed that he needed to be a single parent, receiving Social Security benefits or handicapped to qualify for an apartment. By contrast, a Caucasian prospective tenant who visited the rental office at the subject property in May 1997 was furnished an application, was advised that there was a three month wait for a unit and was not informed that she needed to be a single parent, receiving Social Security benefits or handicapped to qualify for an apartment.

    3. In or prior to 1996, defendant Lewis made several negative statements to a Caucasian tenant regarding the tenant's son's association with African American friends. Included among these statements was a request by Lewis that the tenant "tell your son not to bring any more niggers on this property who don't live here."

    4. At least since January 1997, African American applicants have waited significantly longer than Caucasian applicants to become housed at Wedgewood Village Apartments.

    5. On or about July 17, 1996, defendant Provident United Inc. became aware of the deficiencies found by HUD's Multifamily Asset Management Division concerning leasing and occupancy standards at Wedgewood Village Apartments. These deficiencies included lack of written tenant selection procedures, failure to maintain or properly manage a tenant waiting list and failure to uniformly apply applicant reference criteria. At this time, defendant Provident United, Inc. was aware of fair housing complaints filed against it by H.O.M.E. and knew or should have known that the management deficiencies cited by HUD's Multifamily Asset Management Division were making it possible for their management agent, defendant Lewis, to continue her discriminatory policies and practices.

  • Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), H.O.M.E. made an election on or about December 17, 1997 to have the Secretary's Charge of Discrimination resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court.

  • Following this election, the Secretary of HUD authorized the Attorney General of the United States to commence a civil action pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

  • The discriminatory conduct in which the defendants engaged, including the actions described in paragraph 14, unlawfully discriminated against African Americans seeking rental units at the subject property in the following ways:

    1. Discouraging African American individuals from applying for rental units or making units unavailable to them violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);

    2. Imposing different rental standards and policies on African American applicants seeking rental units violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);

    3. Making discriminatory statements to testers, tenants and others violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c);

    4. Misrepresenting to African Americans that rental units were not available for inspection or rental when such units were available violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).

  • H.O.M.E. is an aggrieved person, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and has suffered damages, including frustration of its organizational purpose, as a consequence of the defendants' discriminatory conduct.

  • The discriminatory conduct practiced by the defendants, or for which they are legally responsible, was intentional, willful and taken in disregard of H.O.M.E.'s rights.

    II. Individual Violation (Larry B. Hall, Jr.)

  • Plaintiff realleges and herein incorporates by reference the averments set forth in paragraphs 1-18, above.

  • Larry B. Hall, Jr., is an African American male who resides within the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.

  • On or about August 29, 1997, Mr. Hall filed an administrative complaint with the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The administrative complaint was amended on October 17, 1997. As amended, the administrative complaint alleged that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 3601 et seq., by discriminating against Mr. Hall in the rental of an apartment unit at Wedgewood Village Apartments on the basis of his race or color.

  • Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation of Mr. Hall's administrative complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that discriminatory housing practices with respect to Mr. Hall had occurred. On November 21, 1997, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A) charging the defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

  • The events and circumstances that formed the basis for the Secretary's Charge of Discrimination included those described above in paragraph 13.

  • Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), Mr. Hall made an election on or about December 17, 1997 to have the Charge of Discrimination resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court.

  • Following this election, the Secretary of HUD, acting pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o), authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action on Mr. Hall's behalf.

  • The discriminatory conduct in which the defendants engaged, including the actions described in paragraph 13, unlawfully discriminated against Mr. Hall on the basis of his race or color in the following ways:

    1. Denying Mr. Hall an opportunity to apply for an apartment unit, including the opportunity to have his name placed on a waiting list, violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);

    2. Imposing different rental standards and policies on Mr. Hall in connection with his effort to rent an apartment unit at Wedgewood Village Apartments violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);

    3. Misrepresenting to Mr. Hall that apartment units were not available for rental when such units were available violated of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).

  • Mr. Hall is an aggrieved person, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and has suffered damages as a consequence of the defendants' discriminatory conduct.

  • The discriminatory conduct practiced by the defendants, or for which they are legally responsible, was intentional, willful and taken in disregard of Mr. Hall's rights.

    III. Individual Violation (Rokena Dunaway)

  • Plaintiff realleges and herein incorporates by reference the averments set forth in paragraphs 1-28, above.

  • Rokena Dunaway is an African American female who resides in the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.

  • On or about October 31, 1997, Ms. Dunaway filed an administrative complaint with the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The administrative complaint alleged that the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 3601 et seq., by discriminating against Ms. Dunaway in the rental of an apartment unit at Wedgewood Village Apartments on the basis of her race or color. HUD then issued a charge on behalf of Ms. Dunaway and her two children, Raneka Dunaway and Chelsey Gaines.

  • Ms. Dunaway visited the rental office at Wedgewood Village Apartments sometime in or about March of 1996, seeking a two or three bedroom apartment unit. Upon entering, she spoke with defendant Lewis. Defendant Lewis falsely informed Ms. Dunaway that she had to receive child support payments to qualify for an apartment because she had two children. Although Ms. Dunaway was not receiving child support payments at that time, she believed that she had sufficient income to qualify for a unit. Although an application form was provided to her, she did not complete it because she felt discouraged by what defendant Lewis had told her. Ms. Dunaway returned to the rental office at Wedgewood Village Apartments in December of 1996 and again spoke with defendant Lewis. Defendant Lewis advised Ms. Dunaway that she had to have a minimum annual income of $20,000.00 to qualify for a two-bedroom apartment. Defendant Lewis gave Ms. Dunaway a rental application and informed her that the wait for a two-bedroom apartment was three to six months. Ms. Dunaway submitted her completed application on January 2, 1997. Ms. Dunaway made repeated telephone calls to Wedgewood Village Apartments to inquire as to the status of her application. Each time she called she was given different and conflicting information about her placement on the waiting list. She also made at least one visit to Wedgewood Village Apartments at which time she requested to be placed in an apartment as soon as possible. Ms. Dunaway was not housed at Wedgewood Village Apartments until August 15, 1997.

  • Despite Ms. Dunaway's repeated attempts to be housed at Wedgewood Village Apartments, six Caucasian applicants who had applied for two-bedroom apartment units after Ms. Dunaway were housed before her. Two Caucasian applicants, who, like Ms. Dunaway, were not seeking a subsidized unit, waited only nine and ten days respectfully to be housed. In contrast, Ms. Dunaway waited 225 days for a unit after she submitted her application. One of the Caucasian applicants submitted her application on January 23, 1997, twenty-one days after Ms. Dunaway submitted hers, but was housed on February 1. The other Caucasian applicant applied for a two-bedroom unit in July of 1997, and was placed in such a unit within ten days.

  • Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation of Mr. Dunaway's administrative complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that discriminatory housing practices with respect to Ms. Dunaway had occurred. On November 24, 1997, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging the defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

  • On December 17, 1997, Mr. Dunaway elected, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), to have the Charge of Discrimination resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court.

  • Following this election, the Secretary of HUD, acting pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o), authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action on Ms. Dunaway's behalf.

  • The discriminatory conduct in which the defendants engaged, including the actions described in paragraphs 32 and 33, unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Dunaway and her 2 minor children on the basis of her race or color in the following ways:

    1. Making Ms. Dunaway wait 225 days to be housed in an apartment unit at Wedgewood Village Apartments while similarly situated Caucasian applicants who had applied later than she did were housed significantly sooner effectively made housing unavailable to her in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);

    2. Imposing different rental standards and policies on Ms. Dunaway in connection with her effort to rent an apartment unit at Wedgewood Village Apartments violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);

    3. Misrepresenting to Ms. Dunaway that apartment units were not available for rental when such units were available violated 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).

  • Ms. Dunaway is an aggrieved persons, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and has suffered damages as a consequence of the defendants' discriminatory conduct.

  • The discriminatory conduct practiced by the defendants, or for which they are legally responsible, was intentional, willful and taken in disregard of Ms. Dunaway's rights

    IV. PATTERN OR PRACTICE VIOLATION

  • Plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1-39 above.

  • Defendants have made statements and taken actions that indicate a preference not to rent units at Wedgewood Village to persons who are African American.

  • In operating Wedgewood Village Apartments, defendants have engaged in a course of conduct intended to discourage African Americans from renting apartments, and have discriminated against African-American residents of Wedgewood Village in the provision of services and facilities in connection with the rental of dwellings, in violation of Sections 804 (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Fair Housing Act.

  • The conduct of the Defendants described above constitutes:

    1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights secured by Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.; and

    2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., which denial raises an issue of general public importance.

  • In addition to H.O.M.E., Larry B. Hall, Jr. and Rokena Dunaway, there are other victims of Defendants' discriminatory actions and practices who are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These victims may have suffered actual injury and damages as a result of Defendants' discriminatory statements and practices.

  • Defendants' discriminatory conduct was intentional, willful, and taken in reckless disregard of the rights of the victims of discrimination.
  • Prayer for Relief

    WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an order that:

    1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of the Defendants, as set forth above, violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;

    2. Enjoins the defendants, their agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them from discriminating on the basis of race against any person in any aspect of the lease or rental of a dwelling;

    3. Awards such actual damages as would fully compensate H.O.M.E., Mr. Hall and Ms. Dunaway for injuries caused by the Defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);

    4. Awards punitive damages to H.O.M.E., Mr. Hall and Ms. Dunaway, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);

    5. Awards such actual damages as would fully compensate each identifiable person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices for the injury suffered as a result of these discriminatory practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);

    6. Awards punitive damages to each identifiable person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and

    7. Assesses a civil penalty against the Defendants in order to vindicate the public interest, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3614(d)(1)(C).

    The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice require.

    JANET RENO
    Attorney General

    BILL LANN LEE
    Acting Assistant Attorney General
    Civil Rights Division

    JOAN MAGAGNA
    Acting Chief, Housng and Civil Encorcement Section

    HARVERY L. HANDLEY
    VSB #42105
    SCOTT P. MOORE
    Nebraska State Bar #20752
    U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
    P.O. Box 65998
    Washington, DC 20035-5998
    (202) 307-3802

    HELEN F. FAHEY
    United States Attorney

    ROBERT W. JASPEN
    Assistant United States Attorney
    Suite 1800, Main Street Centre
    600 East Main Street
    Richmond, Virginia 23219
    (804) 771-2186
    VSB #13773

    General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
     
    Leadership
    Steven H. Rosenbaum
    Chief
    Contact
    Housing & Civil
    Enforcement Section
    (202) 514-4713
    TTY - 202-305-1882
    FAX - (202) 514-1116
    To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
    1-800-896-7743
    Mailing Contact
    U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
    Washington, D.C. 20530

    Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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