Justice Department Files Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Pearl, Mississippi Property Owners and Rental Agent

The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the owners, operators and rental agent of several apartment complexes in Pearl, Mississippi, violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African Americans based on their race.

The department’s complaint seeks relief against three owners and operators of the properties — SSM Properties LLC; Steven Maulding; and Sheila Maulding — as well as James Roe, who acted as a rental agent for the apartment complexes on behalf of the other defendants. The lawsuit is based on the results of testing conducted by the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and a Charge of Discrimination issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). Testing is a simulation of a housing transaction that compares responses given by housing providers to different types of home-seekers to determine whether or not illegal discrimination is occurring.

The department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleges that Roe discriminated against prospective renters on the basis of race by treating African Americans who inquired about available apartments differently and less favorably than similarly-situated white persons. The properties are:

  • Oak Manor Apartments, located at 2592 Old Country Club Road, Pearl, Miss.;
  • Pearl Manor Apartments, located at 200 George Wallace Drive, Pearl, Miss.; and
  • 468 Place Townhomes, located at 2932-34 State Highway 468, Pearl, Miss.

“More than a half century ago, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act to prohibit landlords and others from denying people the opportunity to live where they want because of their race, color, or other protected characteristics,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Some misguided people unfortunately continue to defy this law by segregating and excluding people because of their skin color. This uncivilized and cruel discrimination hurts people; it must end, now, and the Department of Justice is determined to put a stop to it. All Americans should be free to live anywhere in the United States without regard to the color of their skin. No one’s housing choices should be limited because of race or color or by more subtle differences in the way home-seekers are treated when they ask about available properties. This department is committed to ensuring equal housing opportunities, regardless of race, including by using fair-housing testing to uncover hidden discrimination that might otherwise go undetected.”

“Treating people differently in housing based on the color of their skin is not only morally and ethically reprehensible and incompatible with American principles, but against federal law,”  said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi. “We in the Department of Justice will always strive to ensure that justice is done and that people are treated equitably and fairly, especially when seeking and trying to access such an essential cornerstone of a free society as housing. This lawsuit is just one more step up the long staircase of liberty and justice for all.”

“A person’s race should not be a factor when searching for a place to call home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD applauds today’s action and remains committed to working with the Justice Department to take appropriate action whenever the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.”

According to the department’s complaint, Roe encouraged white testers to rent at Pearl Manor Apartments but discouraged African-American testers from renting there, telling one African-American tester that if he rented to her at this complex, the residents would think he had “let the zoo out.” In addition, Roe told African-American testers about fewer rental units than white testers, allowed white testers to view certain apartments while not offering or allowing African-American testers the same opportunity, and imposed more stringent financial and employment criteria and inquiries on African-American testers than on white testers. The lawsuit alleges that SSM Properties and Steven and Sheila Maulding are legally responsible for Roe’s alleged discrimination because he worked as their rental agent.

Today’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, civil penalties against the defendants to vindicate the public interest, and a court order barring future discrimination.

Individuals who believe they or someone they know may have been discriminated against at any of these properties should contact the department toll-free at 1-833-591-0291 or by email at fairhousing@usdoj.gov. Individuals who have information about this or another matter involving alleged discrimination may submit a report online at civilrights.justice.gov.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the civil rights laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct. The allegations in the complaint must be proven in court.

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    The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and six other federal law enforcement agencies announced the completion of the third annual Money Mule Initiative, a coordinated operation to disrupt the networks through which transnational fraudsters move the proceeds of their crimes.  Money mules are individuals who assist fraudsters by receiving money from victims of fraud and forwarding it to the fraud organizers, many of whom are located abroad.  Some money mules know they are assisting fraudsters, but others are unaware that their actions enable fraudsters’ efforts to swindle money from consumers, businesses, and government unemployment funds.  Europol announced a simultaneous effort, the European Money Mule Action (EMMA) today.
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  • California Nebula Stars in Final Mosaic by NASA’s Spitzer
    In Space
    The image composite is [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Yang Man-Hee of Seoul Broadcasting System
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Sam’s Test Record for Drupal Testing
    In U.S GAO News
    This is Sam's Test Record for Drupal Testing.
    [Read More…]
  • United Airlines to Pay $49 Million to Resolve Criminal Fraud Charges and Civil Claims
    In Crime News
    United Airlines Inc. (United), the world’s third largest airline, has agreed to pay over $49 million to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to fraud on postal service contracts for transportation of international mail.
    [Read More…]
  • Albania National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • The Department of State Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Armenia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Nicaragua Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to [Read More…]
  • Cambodia National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt Delivers Remarks Announcing Goldman Sachs/1mdb Enforcement Actions
    In Crime News
    Good Afternoon. I am Brian Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. I am joined today by Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Bill Sweeney of the FBI, Stephanie Avakian, Director of the Enforcement Division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement Jason Gonzalez of the Federal Reserve Board. We are here today to announce enforcement actions of historic significance.
    [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRS
    In Crime News
    Two Durham, North Carolina, return preparers pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of the Middle District of North Carolina.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation Chair Dr. Abdullah
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • University Researcher Pleads Guilty to Lying on Grant Applications to Develop Scientific Expertise for China
    In Crime News
    A rheumatology professor and researcher with strong ties to China pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal authorities as part of an immunology research fraud scheme. Song Guo Zheng, 58, of Hilliard, appeared in federal court today, at which time his guilty plea was accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.
    [Read More…]