Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS


United States of America,
     Plaintiff,

v.

Sinforiano Ojeda
and
Adela Ojeda
     Defendants.

______________________________


COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

  1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce 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 - 3619 (hereinafter "The Fair Housing Act").
  2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3612.
  3. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in this district and because the property that is the subject of the action is situated in this district.
  4. Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda, also known as "Ralph" Ojeda, and his wife, Defendant Adela Ojeda, ("Defendants") have owned and managed the apartment building located at 7222 North Damen from on or about July 16, 1997 to the present.
  5. The apartment building located at 7222 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, ("the Property) is a residential rental property. The Property and the approximately forty-two apartments it contains are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  6. Mae Rose Kelly, an African-American female, resided as a tenant at the Property from approximately 1994 to November 1997.
  7. Patrick Cottrell, an African-American male, and Althea Chambers, an African-American female, resided together as tenants at the Property from approximately 1995 to October 1997. Althea Chambers is also known as Althea Cottrell.
  8. The Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities ("Leadership Council") is a not-for-profit Illinois corporation that promotes fair housing. Its mission is to eradicate housing discrimination and segregation throughout the Chicago metropolitan region.
  9. On or about July 27, 1998, Mae Rose Kelly filed, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a), with the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development ("the Secretary"), a complaint alleging housing discrimination on the basis of race and color by Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda.
  10. On or about July 30, 1998, Patrick Cottrell filed, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a), with the Secretary a complaint alleging housing discrimination on the basis of race and color by Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda.
  11. On or about December 22, 1998, Patrick Cottrell amended his complaint and added as a complainant Althea Chambers (identified therein as Althea Cottrell). Althea Chambers and Patrick Cottrell filed this amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a).
  12. On or about July 10, 1998, the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities ("Leadership Council") filed, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a), with the Secretary, a complaint alleging housing discrimination on the basis of race and color by Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda.
  13. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary conducted an investigation of the complaints, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in that investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that discriminatory housing practices occurred with respect to the complaints filed by Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell and Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council. Therefore, on March 28, 2000, the Secretary issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  14. On or about April 19, 2000, complainants Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, and the Leadership Council elected to have the claims asserted in the Charge of Discrimination resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to Section 812(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).
  15. On or about April 19, 2000, the Secretary authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action on behalf of Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council, pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  16. Since approximately July 16, 1997, when Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda purchased the Property and at all relevant times, Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda has functioned as the day-to-day manager of the Property and as the agent of Defendant Adela Ojeda.
  17. Defendants, during the time they have owned the Property, have discriminated on the basis of race and color against Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council.
  18. Shortly after July 16, 1997, Defendants closed the Property's garbage chute. This remained closed until at least November 1997 and caused an infestation of roaches and other pests in the building.
  19. Defendants' decision to close the garbage chute, and deny this amenity to the tenants, was made on the basis of race. On several occasions between July and at least November 1997, when Property tenants asked Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda why the garbage chute had been closed, Sinforiano Ojeda said that black tenants were not "worthy" of garbage chutes.
  20. Between approximately July 27, 1997 and November 1997, Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda came to the apartment of Mae Rose Kelly in response to a maintenance request. During this visit, Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda made statements indicating a preference against the Property's black tenants and stating that the Property's black tenants should not receive certain of the Property's services and amenities. Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda made statements indicating a clear preference, policy and intent to limit and exclude black persons from residing at the Property.
  21. In approximately November 1997, Defendants evicted Mae Rose Kelly.
  22. On several occasions after Defendants took over the Property and during the tenancy of Patrick Cottrell, Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda made statements to Patrick Cottrell indicating a preference against the Property's black tenants and stating that the Property's black tenants should not receive certain of the Property's services and amenities. Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda made statements to Patrick Cottrell indicating a clear preference, policy and intent to limit and exclude black persons from residing at the Property.
  23. In approximately October 1997, Defendants evicted Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and their minor child.
  24. After receiving complaints regarding housing discrimination at the Property, the Leadership Council conducted a fair housing test at the Property in September 1997 to compare the information provided and the services and treatment afforded by Defendants to prospective renters of differing races. Testers are persons who, without the intent to rent or buy a dwelling, gather information about housing for rent or sale in order to help determine whether discriminatory housing practices are occurring.
  25. In the test conducted by the Leadership Council in September 1997, Defendant Sinforiano Ojeda made statements indicating a clear preference, policy and intent to limit and exclude black persons, from residing at the Property; informed the white tester of the greater availability of apartments than the black tester; and encouraged the white tester but not the black tester to apply to live at Defendants' property.
  26. Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda have discriminated against Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council on the basis of race and color in connection with the rental of dwellings in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda:
    1. Discriminated in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, or color in violation of the rights of Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council under Section 804(b) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);
    2. Made, or caused to be made, statements with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race or color in violation of the rights of Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council under Section 804(c) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c); and
    3. Represented because of race or color that dwellings were not available for inspection or rental when such dwellings were in fact so available, in violation of the rights of the Leadership Council under Section 804(d) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
  27. Defendant Adela Ojeda, as the co-owner of the Property, at all relevant times knew or should have known of the discriminatory conduct and statements of her agent, co-owner, and husband Sinforiano Ojeda, but failed to take action to curtail and/or prevent the discrimination, in violation of Sections 804(b), 804(c), and 804(d) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b),(c), and (d).
  28. Complainants Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council are aggrieved persons as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). They suffered actual injury and damages as a result of Defendants' conduct and statements as described herein.
  29. 29.
    1. The conduct and statements of Defendants Sinforiano and Adela Ojeda described herein were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council.
    2. Alternatively, the conduct and statements of Defendant Adela Ojeda described herein was negligent with respect to the rights of Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF

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

  1. Declares that Defendants' conduct and statements, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619;
  2. Enjoins Defendants, their officers, employees, and agents, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:
    1. Discriminating because of race or color against any person in any aspect of the rental or sale of a dwelling;
    2. Failing or refusing to notify the public that dwellings owned or operated by Defendants are available to all persons on a nondiscriminatory basis;
    3. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants' unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct; and
    4. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future and to eliminate, to the extent practicable, the effects of Defendants' unlawful housing practices.
  3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council for injuries caused by Defendants' violations of the Fair Housing Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c); and
  4. Awards punitive damages to Mae Rose Kelly, Patrick Cottrell, Althea Chambers, and the Leadership Council for Defendants' violations of the Fair Housing Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c);

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

JANET RENO,
ATTORNEY GENERAL

BILL LANN LEE,
Assistant Attorney General

JOAN A. MAGAGNA,
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
ISABELLE M. THABAULT
Deputy Chief
ELIZABETH TUCCI
Attorney, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65998
Washington D.C. 20035-5988
(202) 353-9707

JOAN LASER
Assistant United States Attorney

SCOTT LASSER
United States Attorney
Northern District of Illinois > >

Updated August 6, 2015

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