Thursday, December 22, 2016

Omaha Feds Pinch Landlord On Palm Greasing Charges; Indictment: Defendants Bribed Two Housing Authority Employees To Steer Prospective Section 8 Tenants To Their Rental Properties, Mothball Renters' Housing Complaints

In Omaha, Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reports:
  • An Omaha landlord and his secretary bribed two employees of the city’s public housing agency in a scheme to keep payments flowing to their rental company, according to a federal indictment returned this week in U.S. District Court.

    The landlord, Lafi Jafari, operates about 100 rental properties mostly in Omaha’s urban core. Some he owns personally, others through his business, MM&L International, where he has been assisted by MaryLou Gruttemeyer.

    The Omaha Housing Authority employees were not identified in the indictment,(1) which alleges a total of about $2,100 in payments.

    The alleged bribes were made most often in a dwindling denomination: $2 bills. They were offered to protect a lucrative stream of money flowing to Jafari and Gruttemeyer, whose low-income tenants are recipients of the housing authority’s Section 8 rent subsidies, according to federal prosecutors.

    From 2012 through 2014, the period during which the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Omaha alleges that the enticements were paid, Jafari or his business received more than $600,000 from OHA via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Jafari, 73, and Gruttemeyer, 57, were indicted [] in U.S. District Court on conspiracy to commit bribery and six counts of paying a bribe to an agent of the Omaha Housing Authority.

    Jafari was indicted alone on one count of making false statements to special agents of HUD’s Office of Inspector General. He told the agents “he had never provided anything of value to an employee of OHA,” according to the indictment []. He also told the agents he did not know the employee that they were asking about.

    Jafari and Gruttemeyer are accused of providing or offering to provide bribes to the OHA employees to steer prospective tenants their way and to not refer complaints to HUD’s Office of Inspector General. One payment, the indictment says, was to secure an OHA employee’s false report that a Section 8 tenant was still living in a property so that Jafari would not have to reimburse OHA for overpayment.

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