North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Fair Housing Act and Threatening a Family Because of Their Race

The Justice Department announced today that Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34, pleaded guilty today in federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina to one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act, for using threats of force against an African American family because of the family members’ race and because they were renting a dwelling.

According to the defendant’s plea agreement, and admissions in court, the defendant, in December 2014, drove to the home of an African American family and yelled racial slurs at the family. The defendant told the family that they did not belong in their home. The defendant then threatened to shoot the family, to include four minor children, and any other African American that came onto the property. After making this threat, the defendant brandished a metal rod in a threatening manner. The family moved out of the neighborhood a few days after this incident. Within the next four years, the defendant engaged in similar criminal conduct toward two other African American families living in the same neighborhood.

“The defendant is being held accountable for threatening an African-American family because they were occupying a house,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will continue to investigate and prosecute those individuals who interfere with federally protected housing rights because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.”

“This defendant threatened citizens of this District – a mom and her four children – because of their race.  This is not who we are as Americans and prejudice of any kind is intolerable,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “The defendant’s threats violate the laws designed to ensure fair and equal treatment for us all and I am pleased we could bring this matter to federal court to vindicate those rights and to stand with this mom and her children to see that justice is served.”

“Investigating civil rights violations is some of the most important work that we do,” said John Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina. “No individual should live in fear because of someone’s intolerance and hatred. Mr. Gurkins’ actions to threaten the lives of African American families, essentially making them afraid inside their own homes is deplorable. Today’s plea is the first step towards justice for these families.”

The defendant faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Charlotte Division, Greenville Resident Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Blondel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina, and Trial Attorneys Shan Patel and Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, are prosecuting the case.

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    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 17 priority recommendations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since then, HUD has implemented 5 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to help HUD strengthen the monitoring of disaster recovery block grant funds and improving information technology management. In June 2021, GAO identified 1 additional priority recommendation for HUD, bringing the total number to 13. This recommendation involved improving the Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process. The 13 recommendations fall into the following areas: Improve Real Estate Assessment Center's physical inspection process Address Ginnie Mae's risk management and staffing-related challenges Strengthen processes to address lead paint hazards Enhance oversight of Moving to Work Improve cybersecurity risk management and workforce planning practices Improve information technology management HUD's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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  • NASA’s InSight Flexes Its Arm While Its ‘Mole’ Hits Pause
    In Space
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  • Justice Department Invests $2.6 Million to Mitigate Violent Crime and Support Public Safety in Disruption Efforts
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced awards from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) totaling $2.6 million to four jurisdictions to disrupt and mitigate threats of violence.  The funds support state and local prosecutors and investigators who seek expertise from mental health and threat assessment experts to identify these individuals and prevent violent acts.
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  • Facial Recognition Technology: Privacy and Accuracy Issues Related to Commercial Uses
    In U.S GAO News
    Market research and other data suggest that the market for facial recognition technology has increased in the number and types of businesses that use it since GAO's 2015 report on the topic (GAO-15-621 ). For example, newer functions of the technology identified by stakeholders and literature included authorizing payments and tracking and monitoring attendance of students, employees, or those attending events. Functions of Facial Recognition Technology Accuracy. Although the accuracy of facial recognition technology has increased dramatically in recent years, differences in performance exist for certain demographic groups. National Institute of Standards and Technology tests found that facial recognition technology generally performs better on lighter-skin men and worse on darker-skin women, and does not perform as well on children and elderly adults. These differences could result in more frequent misidentification for certain demographics, such as misidentifying a shopper as a shoplifter when comparing the individual's image against a data set of known shoplifters. There is no consensus on what causes performance differences, including physical factors (such as lighting) or factors related to the creation or operation of the technology. However, stakeholders and literature identified various methods that could help mitigate differences in performance among demographic groups. Privacy. Stakeholders and literature identified concerns related to privacy, such as the inability of individuals to remain anonymous in public or the use of the technology without individuals' consent. Facial recognition technology may collect or store facial images, posing varying levels of risk. Some federal and state laws and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation impose requirements on U.S. companies related to facial recognition technology. However, as we reported in 2015, there is no comprehensive federal privacy law governing the collection, use, and sale of personal information by private-sector companies. Some stakeholders, including privacy and industry groups, have developed voluntary frameworks that seek to address privacy concerns. Most of these frameworks were consistent with internationally recognized principles for protecting the privacy and security of personal information. However, U.S. companies are not required to follow these voluntary frameworks. Facial recognition technology can verify or identify an individual from a facial image. Advocacy groups and others have raised privacy concerns related to private companies' use of the technology, as well as concerns that higher error rates among some demographic groups could lead to disparate treatment. GAO was asked to review the commercial use of facial recognition technology and related accuracy and privacy issues. Among other issues, this report examines how companies use the technology, its accuracy and how accuracy differs across demographic groups, and how privacy issues are addressed in laws and industry practices. GAO analyzed laws; reviewed literature and company documentation; interviewed federal agency officials; and interviewed representatives from companies, industry groups, and privacy groups. GAO also reviewed selected privacy frameworks, chosen based on expert recommendations and research. GAO reiterates its previous suggestion from a 2013 report ( GAO-13-663 ) that Congress consider strengthening the consumer privacy framework to reflect changes in technology and the marketplace. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley at (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov.
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    In Travel
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  • Justice Department, EPA and the State of Indiana Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Lone Star Industries
    In Crime News
    Lone Star Industries Inc, a subsidiary of Italian company Buzzi Unicem, has agreed to upgrade and optimize pollution control equipment and procedures at its cement manufacturing facility in Greencastle, Indiana, to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
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  • The 10th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Two Former Louisiana Correctional Officers Sentenced for Cover Up Following Death of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    Two Louisiana women, former jail deputies, were sentenced today to over a year in prison and six months in prison respectively for their roles in covering up a civil rights violation arising out of an inmate’s death at the St. Bernard Parish Prison (SBPP).
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  • Neurosurgeon and Two Affiliated Companies Agree to Pay $4.4 Million to Settle Healthcare Fraud Allegations
    In Crime News
    Neurosurgeon Wilson Asfora, M.D. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and two medical device distributorships that he owns, Medical Designs LLC and Sicage LLC, have agreed to pay $4.4 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations relating to illegal payments to Asfora to induce the use of certain medical devices, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, as well as claims for medically unnecessary surgeries.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]