Feds Raid Ministry Accused Of Providing Public Housing With Rats, Sewage

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Federal authorities raided an evangelical ministry accused of ignoring rats and sewage in federally-subsidized apartments it owns in Florida and Indiana.

Federal officials served search warrants Aug. 3 at Global Ministries Foundation’s (GMF) headquarters outside Memphis, Tenn., as well as to an unnamed third-party organization in Missouri, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee said.

The raid comes after residents at GMF’s Jacksonville, Fla., properties complained of rodents, sewage and general squalor, and the Indianapolis Housing Agency accused GMF of welfare fraud, according to local news reports. The Indianapolis agency in June demanded GMF repay more than $600,000 for allowing residents to live in unsafe, unhealthy conditions for years.

GMF President and CEO Rev. Richard Hamlet earns nearly $500,000 a year, and multiple family members earn $200,000 a year in income they failed to disclose with the IRS, according to Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican has accused the “slumlord” organization of transferring housing funds for its other operations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee declined to provide further details about the raid. (RELATED: HUD Employee Got TWO Subsidized Housing Units Despite Long Waiting List)

GMF, which lists housing assistance as one of its main outreach programs alongside pastoral training and evangelistic crusades, owns more than 40 apartment complexes in Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee and Georgia through HUD’s Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments program. That program allows private entities to rent to low-income housing voucher recipients, under a contract with HUD.

It’s unclear how much federal funding has gone to GMF, although HUD canceled GMF contracts for some properties, according to a spokesman for Tennessee Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen.

“Let me tell you what this behavior is, let me tell you what Global Ministries Foundation is; it is a slumlord,” Rubio said in a May speech on the Senate floor. “They are slumlords, and there are people that are living in these deplorable conditions while your taxpayer money is going into their bank account, and they are laughing at us.

“The IRS reports also show that between 2011 and 2013, Global Ministries Foundation, the landlord that owns all of these units in all of these buildings that your taxpayer money is paying for, they shifted $9 million away from the low-income housing not profit to its religious affiliate.”

Rubio proposed increasing scores required for passing Section 8 housing inspections and giving cities and states more say in denying HUD contracts for organizations with previous inspection violations. Rubio’s amendments didn’t make it into the final HUD appropriations bill.

He also called on the Department of Justice to examine GMF and said the IRS should reconsider the group’s tax-exempt status, adding, “people like this should never again be allowed to have a single HUD contract anywhere in America.”

Hamlet did not respond to a TheDCNF request for comment.

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Kathryn Watson