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Virginia-based landlord faces federal charges for a campaign of racial harassment, tenant fraud, and government fund misappropriation.
A Virginia-based landlord, David L. Merryman, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a series of disturbing allegations. The charges include using force and threats against Black victims, defrauding tenants, and orchestrating a scheme to illegally obtain government funds. Merryman, who owns over 60 rental properties in Hampton and Newport News, is accused of subjecting his tenants to a campaign of harassment, involving racist slurs, threats of violence, and retaliatory eviction actions. The indictment also outlines instances of graphic threats referencing slavery and derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, Merryman is accused of defrauding the government and tenants through false representations.
Allegations of Harassment and Abuse of Power
According to the indictment, Merryman allegedly engaged in a pattern of racial harassment and abuse of power towards his tenants. The charges include instances of physical assaults, such as striking a tenant with a shovel and threatening another with a chainsaw. Merryman’s alleged actions also involved using racist slurs and making derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. These actions created a hostile living environment for his tenants, causing fear and distress.
Fraudulent Practices and Government Fund Misappropriation
The indictment further accuses Merryman of defrauding the government and tenants through false representations. To secure housing-assistance payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Merryman allegedly made repeated false claims about the condition of his properties. Additionally, he is accused of submitting fraudulent applications for rent-relief benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic by stealing tenants’ identities and forging signatures without consent. While obtaining significant sums in relief, Merryman allegedly evicted tenants for unpaid rent without informing them.
Deceptive Practices and Financial Exploitation
Merryman’s alleged fraud extended beyond the government to his tenants. The indictment alleges that he obtained money and property from tenants under false pretenses, promising property repairs or reimbursements that he never intended to fulfill. This deceptive pattern involved demanding significant upfront fees or deposits, subjecting tenants to discriminatory practices, and cycling through new tenants. These actions not only caused financial harm to the tenants but also perpetuated a cycle of exploitation and instability.
Charges and Potential Penalties
The charges against Merryman include 10 counts of wire fraud, four counts of interfering with housing rights, two counts of interstate communications with threats to injure, six counts of theft of government money, four counts of making false statements to HUD, and four counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, Merryman could face mandatory minimum sentences of two years for each count of aggravated identity theft, with maximum sentences ranging from one to 20 years for other charges.
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The indictment against David L. Merryman reveals a disturbing pattern of racial harassment, tenant fraud, and abuse of power. The allegations paint a picture of a landlord who not only subjected his tenants to a hostile living environment but also manipulated government funds for personal gain. If convicted, Merryman may face severe penalties that reflect the gravity of his alleged actions. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting tenants’ rights and holding individuals accountable for their abusive and fraudulent practices.
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