(STL.News) – Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur is asking anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing to report that conduct to the Department of Justice. The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity. The Department of Justice has heard reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants. Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and the Department of Justice stands ready to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.
“It is reprehensible that some try to take advantage of this global pandemic at the expense of the most vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing and bring these criminals to justice. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and if you see something that doesn’t seem right, please report it.”
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the Initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Launched in 2017, the Initiative has filed lawsuits across the county alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing and recovered millions of dollars in damages for harassment victims. The Justice Department’s investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years. Many individuals do not know that being sexually harassed by a housing provider can violate federal law or that the Department of Justice may be able to help.
Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, is encouraged to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing [email protected]; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, at 410-209-4800; or by filing a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website or by calling (800) 669-9777.
U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations – Baltimore, Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the IRS – Criminal Investigation, and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also want to remind the public that in addition to sexual harassment in housing, COVID-19 scams are also operating from websites that advertise fake vaccines and cures, operate fraudulent charity drives, deliver malware, or host various other types of scams. To attract traffic, these websites often utilize domain names that contain words such as “covid19” or “coronavirus.” In some cases, the fraudulent sites purport to be run by, or affiliated with, public health organizations or agencies.
Federal agencies such as Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, and the IRS will NOT call you, text you, e-mail you, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information—even related to the economic impact payments. Recently, there has been an increase in phishing schemes utilizing e-mails, letters, texts and links. These contacts will often come in the form of unsolicited e-mail and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites in an effort to lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. When visiting a website or when you receive an e-mail containing a link, pay special attention to any web address you are directed to in order ensure it is from a legitimate source. Watch out for e-mails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about economic impact payments or refunds.