FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA LANDLORDS PAY $390,000 TO SETTLE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HOUSING BIAS LAWSUIT
WASHINGTON, D.C.– The owners and managers of two apartment complexes in Riverside, California have agreed to pay $390,000 in damages and penalties to settle allegations that they sexually harassed female tenants and discriminated against African-American and Latino tenants, the Justice Department announced today.
The defendants in the lawsuit include the owners, William David Wingo and Karen Wingo Cipriano, and their apartment manager, Vincent "Vinnie" Stancyk. Mr. Wingo and Ms. Cipriano owned the 31 unit Rio Palmas complex until May 1999, currently own the 70 unit Las Casitas complex, and also own and manage several other properties in the Riverside, California area.
The complaint, filed April 10, 2001, in federal District Court in Santa Ana, California alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African Americans, Latinos, and women at the Rio Palmas and Las Casitas apartments in Riverside California.
"This was an egregious case that required strong remedies," said Assistant Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. "This agreement makes clear that individuals who engage in unlawful housing discrimination, and the people who employ them, will be held accountable for the harm they cause."
"This case sheds light on one of the most discriminatory practices in housing – denying a home to someone because of their race," said Debra W. Yang, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. "As the chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Subcommittee on Civil Rights, I am committed to eradicating illegal discrimination and other civil rights violations throughout my district."
The complaint alleged that Mr. Stancyk subjected female tenants at the complex to repeated and unwelcome sexual harassment, including conditioning the privileges of tenancy on tenants performing sexual acts. The Justice Department alleged that Mr. Wingo and Ms. Cipriano knew or should have known about this harassment and took no action to halt or prevent it. In addition, the Justice Department alleged that the defendants engaged in a variety of discriminatory conduct toward black and Latino apartment-seekers, including: refusing to rent to them, throwing away their rental applications, using racial epithets toward them, refusing to let them have minority guests, and evicting them because of their race or national origin.
Under the agreement, defendants Wingo and Cipriano will:
pay $355,000 to persons who were harmed by the discrimination at the complexes;
pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the United States;
repair the credit histories and remove judgment liens for tenants who were wrongfully evicted;
establish a comprehensive non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure at their complexes they own and manage;
retain an independent fair housing organization to train all of their employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and other anti-discrimination laws; and
retain an independent fair housing organization to conduct periodic testing at their properties to determine whether employees are complying with such laws.
Under the agreement, which still must be approved by the United States District Court in Santa Ana, California, Mr. Stancyk will be barred from working in the rental real estate business. The agreement also provides that Mr. Stancyk, whose employment with Wingo and Cipriano has been terminated, will not work in the rental housing business again.
Anyone who has information about this case, or believes he or she was a victim of discrimination at the Rio Palmas or Las Casitas Apartments in Riverside, Calif., should call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743 or 202-514-4713. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or having children under 18. Persons who believe that they have been victims of unlawful housing discrimination should contact the Department of Housing of Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777. Additional information is available on the HUD website at www.hud.gov.