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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a year of litigation, the owner and former manager of an Albuquerque, New Mexico, apartment complex have agreed to pay $75,000 to resolve allegations that they refused to rent to African Americans and families with children, announced the Justice Department today.

The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, resolves a civil rights complaint filed by the Justice Department in July 1998, alleging that Anita Schikore, former manager of Monterey Manor Apartments in Albuquerque, violated the federal Fair Housing Act by falsely informing African American apartment seekers that there were no apartments available and unlawfully discouraging people with children from living in the complex. Under the agreement, Schikore has admitted to engaging in discriminatory practices. The owner of Monterey Manor, Henry K. Vernon, and Schikore have agreed to compensate individuals whom the complex discriminated against and pay civil penalties to the U.S. Treasury. Vernon must also take steps to prevent future discrimination.

"No American should be turned away from a home they can afford because of their skin color or familial status," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "It has been more than 30 years since the Fair Housing Act became law and we are still fighting this kind of discrimination. We will continue to ensure, across the country, that the law is followed."

Under the agreement, which must be approved by the court, Vernon and Schikore are required to pay $10,000 to each of the two known victims of the complex's discriminatory policies. They must also establish a $20,000 settlement fund to compensate any as yet unidentified victims and provide $9,000 to the Albuquerque Legal Aid Society to promote area-wide compliance with fair housing laws. Under the terms of the agreement, Vernon will also pay a $25,000 civil penalty and Schikore will pay a $1,000 penalty.

The agreement also requires Vernon to train all employees about their obligations under the Fair Housing Act and publicize new non-discrimination policies in newspaper advertisements. In addition, he must hire an independent third party to ensure that Monterey Manor is maintaining non-discrimination policies.

"This important case demonstrates the United States' concern for unimpeded access to equitable housing," said John J. Kelly United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico. "Those who apply discriminatory practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act risk vigorous civil prosecution for their actions."

Some of the evidence against Monterey Manor was gathered through the Justice Department's fair housing testing program. During the tests, trained pairs of African American and white "testers" posed as prospective tenants to inquire about the availability of apartments. Their experiences were then compared to determine whether they were treated equally.

Individuals who believe they may have been the victims of housing discrimination at Monterey Manor should call the Housing Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713.

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