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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  • Uranium Management: Actions to Mitigate Risks to Domestic Supply Chain Could Be Better Planned and Coordinated
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and the separately organized National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within DOE, and uranium industry representatives have identified risks to the commercial supply chain for uranium needed for defense purposes. Such uranium may need to be mined domestically and enriched using U.S. technology to be free of obligations for the peaceful use of uranium and certain technology imported under international agreements. Identified risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain include (1) possible loss of domestic uranium mining capabilities and (2) possible challenges in re-starting the only facility in the United States for converting natural uranium into a form suitable for use in enrichment operations. Further, the U.S. has not had an operating enrichment capability that uses U.S. technology since 2013. Idle Domestic Plant for Converting Uranium to a Form Suitable for Enrichment DOE and NNSA have initiated actions officials believe will mitigate such risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain. For example, DOE and NNSA have both taken steps to reestablish a domestic enrichment capability with U.S. technology. In addition, DOE has proposed creation of a domestic uranium reserve to help support the domestic uranium mining and conversion industries until market conditions improve. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget request includes $150 million for the reserve. However, we cannot conclude that the estimate is reasonable because it is unclear how the funding needs for the reserve were determined. By providing a more complete analysis to support future funding requests for the reserve, DOE could better provide assurance that such requests would achieve objectives. The Nuclear Fuel Working Group's strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry does not fully incorporate all desirable characteristics GAO has identified for a national strategy. For example, it does not identify (1) the level of resources needed to support proposed actions or (2) an interagency coordinating mechanism. DOE is developing an implementation plan for the strategy, but DOE officials provided conflicting statements about the extent to which the agency will coordinate interagency implementation. NNSA has several defense needs for enriched uranium, including low-enriched uranium to produce tritium for nuclear weapons. To meet these needs, NNSA relies on commercial sectors of the domestic uranium industry, such as uranium mining or enrichment, which make up a supply chain for unobligated uranium. However, this industry faces commercial viability risks. In April 2020, the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group released a strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry. This working group includes DOE, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. Senate Report 115-262 included a provision that GAO review NNSA's planning for the future supply of unobligated enriched uranium. This report examines (1) risks agencies and others have identified to the unobligated uranium supply chain and agency actions to mitigate those risks, and (2) the extent to which the Nuclear Fuel Working Group's risk mitigation strategy incorporates desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO analyzed key NNSA and DOE planning documents and interviewed NNSA and other agency officials and industry representatives. GAO is making three recommendations, including that DOE improve its cost estimate to support future funding requests for the proposed uranium reserve and ensure its implementation plan for the strategy addresses each of the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3821 or bawdena@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
    A Russian national was sentenced Oct. 30 to eight years in prison for his role in operating a sophisticated scheme to steal and traffic sensitive personal and financial information in the online criminal underground that resulted in an estimated loss of over $100 million.
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  • Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Commends the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for New Website Enhancing Access to Justice
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams issued the following statement today on the efforts by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to enhance public and litigant access to electronic court records. This year, as part of its access to justice efforts, the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice partnered with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to improve transparency regarding fee exemptions for access to court records in the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. As part of that partnership, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced an enhanced PACER website that makes it easier for indigent individuals, as well as pro bono attorneys, academic researchers, and non-profit organizations, to understand how they may access court records for free.
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    In Crime News
    Amin Mahdavi, 53, an Iranian national living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Parthia Cargo LLC, a freight forwarding company located in the UAE, were charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with participating in a criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws and sanctions against Iran.
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  • Recycling: Building on Existing Federal Efforts Could Help Address Cross-Cutting Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    Based on GAO analysis of stakeholder views, five cross-cutting challenges affect the U.S. recycling system: (1) contamination of recyclables; (2) low collection of recyclables; (3) limited market demand for recyclables; (4) low profitability for operating recycling programs; and (5) limited information to support decision-making about recycling. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent data show that less than a quarter of the waste generated in the United States is collected for recycling (69 million of 292 million tons) and is potentially available, along with new materials, to make new products (see fig.). Estimated Generation and Disposition of Waste in the United States, as of 2018 EPA, the Departments of Commerce (Commerce) and Energy, and the Federal Trade Commission have taken actions that advance recycling, such as collecting data and awarding grants for research on recycling technologies. However, EPA has not conducted studies or developed recommendations for administrative or legislative action on the effect of existing public policies on recycling, as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires. Conducting these studies would provide Congress with information to better evaluate the effect of different policies on U.S. recycling efforts. In addition, Commerce is not fully meeting its RCRA requirement to stimulate the development of markets for recycled materials because it has not taken actions to stimulate domestic markets, as GAO recommended in 2006. Commerce officials stated that their work to stimulate international markets fulfills Commerce's obligations under RCRA. Congress may need to act to clarify Commerce's responsibilities under RCRA or assign responsibility for stimulating domestic markets to another agency. By taking action, Congress can ensure a federal response to the reduction in international demand for U.S. recyclables. EPA has taken several actions to plan and coordinate national efforts to advance recycling, such as releasing a draft national recycling strategy in October 2020. However, EPA has not incorporated some desirable characteristics for effective national strategies, identified in prior GAO work. By better incorporating such characteristics as it finalizes and implements its draft strategy, EPA will have greater assurance of the strategy's usefulness in making resource and policy decisions and will better ensure accountability for its implementation. In 1976, Congress sought to reduce solid waste and encourage recycling as part of RCRA, which gave primary responsibility for recycling to states and municipalities but requires EPA and Commerce to take specific actions. The United States generated almost 1,800 pounds of waste per capita in 2018. Recycling rates for common recyclables, such as paper, plastics, glass, and some metals, remain low. Furthermore, recent international import restrictions have reduced demand for U.S. exports of recyclables. GAO was asked to review federal efforts that advance recycling in the United States. This report examines (1) cross-cutting challenges affecting recycling in the United States, (2) actions that selected federal agencies have taken that advance recycling, and (3) actions EPA has taken to plan and coordinate national efforts to advance recycling. GAO reviewed laws and agency documents; and interviewed federal officials and nonfederal stakeholders, such as states, municipalities, and industry representatives, selected for their expertise and efforts to advance recycling. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration to clarify a RCRA requirement for Commerce or to assign responsibility for stimulating domestic markets to another agency; and three recommendations to EPA, including that it take actions to fulfill certain RCRA requirements. EPA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Reaches Landmark Agreement with Massachusetts Department of Children and Family to Address Discrimination Against Parents with Disabilities
    In Crime News
    The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that they reached a landmark agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).  
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