Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative - Recent Cases

Webb

Hezekiah Webb owned and rented properties in St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.  DOJ received a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that Webb had made comments about a tenant’s body, asked her sexual questions, attempted to touch her breasts, and offered to reduce her rent in exchange for sex.  Additional victims came forward to HUD and DOJ and reported that Webb made similar unwelcome sexual comments to them, touched their bodies, exposed himself, offered to excuse late rent or reduce rent in exchange for sex, and evicted tenants who rejected his sexual advances.  DOJ filed a lawsuit against Webb and his wife, Jameseva, who co-owned properties with him.  The Webbs settled the case in March 2018.  The settlement prohibits the Webbs from serving as property managers and requires them to pay $600,000 to the tenants who were harassed.

Tjoelker

Frank Tjoelker owns rental properties in Grand Rapids, Michigan. DOJ received reports that he made unwelcome sexual comments to female applicants and tenants. He touched their bodies without their permission. He said he would reduce rent, ignore late or unpaid rent, or stop evictions if the tenants agreed to perform sexual acts. He also threatened to evict women who did not agree to perform sexual acts. DOJ filed a lawsuit against him. He settled the case in October 2017. The settlement agreement requires him to hire someone else to manage the rental properties, and to pay $140,000 to the applicants and tenants he harassed.

Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority

The Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority operates the city’s public housing. DOJ received complaints filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other reports that Housing Authority employees were sexually harassing public housing residents and applicants. Victims reported that one employee gave housing to applicants who were appealing housing denials, and dismissed fines and fees residents owed to the housing authority, if he could show them his genitals, show them pornography, or ask them sexual questions. More victims came forward with reports that another Housing Authority employee asked tenants for sex in exchange for getting into public housing or getting a housing transfer. Victims also reported that a third employee evicted residents who rejected his sexual advances. DOJ filed a lawsuit against the employees and the Housing Authority. They settled the case in September 2017. The settlement requires the employees and the Housing Authority to pay $360,000 to the residents and applicants the employees harassed.

Walden

Gary Walden owned and rented properties in Morgantown, West Virginia. DOJ received reports that he grabbed female tenants’ bodies or tried to force them to touch him. He made unwelcome sexual comments and advances. He told them they didn’t have to pay rent if they had sex with him or one of his employees. He evicted tenants for saying no or reporting his behavior. The State of West Virginia prosecuted him for sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty in May 2015. DOJ filed a lawsuit against him. He settled the case in July 2017. The settlement requires him to pay $500,000 to tenants he harassed.

Wygul

Jeffrey Wygul owned and rented homes in Henry, Tennessee. DOJ received a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development that Wygul sexually harassed a tenant. He sent text messages to a female tenant repeatedly that demanded she send photos of herself to him. He then demanded that she pose for him in revealing clothes. Finally, he demanded that she pose nude for him. He said he would lower or waive her rent if she posed for him. When the tenant said she wouldn’t pose nude for photos, he evicted her. DOJ filed a lawsuit against him. He settled the case in December 2016. The settlement requires him to pay $15,000 to the tenant he harassed and to leave the rental business.

Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc.

Southeastern Community and Family Services, Inc. (SCFS) runs the Section 8 housing voucher program in Scotland County, North Carolina. DOJ received reports from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Legal Aid of North Carolina that the manager and inspector of the Section 8 housing choice voucher program sexually harassed female applicants and participants of the voucher program. They made unwelcome sexual comment and advances, touched women sexually, and demanded sexual acts in exchange for passing a home inspection or moving up on a waitlist. They also refused to give a voucher to an applicant who would not perform sexual acts. DOJ filed a lawsuit. That lawsuit was combined with another lawsuit brought by female applicants and participants. After DOJ filed its lawsuit, SCFS fired the two employees. In 2015, SCFS paid $2.7 million to settle the lawsuits. The settlement requires SCFS to pay $1 million of that $2.7 million to a fund that compensated 71 people who the SCFS employees harassed.

Updated March 30, 2018

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