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Press Release

Roxbury Landlord Agrees to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Landlord allegedly sought illegal side payments from a Section 8 tenant

BOSTON – A Roxbury landlord has agreed to pay an $8,500 settlement to resolve allegations that he submitted false claims to the federal government after receiving impermissible water utility payments and excess rent from a low income tenant while participating in a federal housing subsidy program.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides federal funding through the Federal Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly referred to as “Section 8,” to assist low income individuals in securing safe housing. HUD provides funding through vouchers that are administered by local public housing agencies. HUD pays the housing subsidy, which may cover all or a portion of a tenant’s monthly rent, including certain utilities, directly to the landlord. As a condition for receiving the housing subsidy, the landlord contractually agrees not to charge the Section 8 tenant rent in excess of the amount set by the public housing agency. 

Despite this restriction, Flemin Ortiz allegedly demanded and received monthly water utility payments from a Section 8 tenant for over four and a half years between November 2014 and June 2019, and excess rent for four months between March and June 2019. The Section 8 tenant first raised this allegation in a lawsuit filed against the defendant under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.                                                    

“The Section 8 program provides precious funding allowing low-income families to afford safe housing,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.  “We will hold accountable landlords who benefit from the program and then take advantage of their tenants.”

“This settlement is the latest example of our continued commitment to hold landlords accountable for actions that seek to enrich themselves at the expense of our poorest neighbors,” said Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General.

The False Claims Act allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery. The settlement agreement requires the defendant to pay $8,500 to the United States.

U.S. Attorney Lelling and HUD OIG SAC Scaringi made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Sharobem of Lelling’s Office handled the matter.

Updated January 8, 2021