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Official Finger-Pointing Lets Dangerous Fugitives Stay In Public Housing

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor

Federal law bans fugitives from living in taxpayer-funded public housing, and federal officials have no idea how many criminals are doing it anyway.

An estimated 1,300 felony fugitives were found living in federally funded homes in just one region of the country in 2012. Local public housing authorities refused to evict them, according to an unpublished Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General (IG) investigation first reported July 26, 2016, by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Those residents faced warrants for crimes ranging from felony theft to rape and murder. But four years later, HUD officials don’t know what happened to the 1,300, or how many live in taxpayer-funded residences now.

“No data to report to you,” agency spokesman Brian Sullivan told TheDCNF after repeated inquiries over a nearly three-week period.

It’s unclear if the original 1,300 fugitives were ever arrested or evicted. The IG report was never made public because of “questions about the validity of the data,” IG spokesman Darryl Madden previously told TheDCNF. He refused to provide details.

Madden called the report a “draft,” though the document lacked the typical markings used to indicate that status.

Regardless, the IG’s report was labeled as a potential “systemic” issue, which suggests investigators are concerned local authorities are refusing to evict fugitives from federally funded housing across the country.

Federal law also requires fugitives be evicted immediately, the IG and Sullivan both pointed out. It’s unclear what HUD is doing to enforce that statute. Sullivan would only repeat the law’s language.

TheDCNF story prompted Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to ask HUD Secretary Julian Castro what his agency is doing to evict fugitives and keep eligible law-abiding residents safe.

“HUD will absolutely be responding to Sen. Grassley,” Sullivan told TheDCNF. He refused to disclose any details of the department’s enforcement activities, offering only the observation that “I don’t know how the Daily Caller News Foundation feels about criminal justice reform, but I can assume its position.”

Sullivan’s Twitter bio reads “ending homelessness is a good thing.”

Sullivan insisted that local housing authorities aren’t operated by HUD, even after TheDCNF pointed out that they are federally funded and required to satisfy federal law and regulation.

“Public Housing Authorities are locally owned and operated,” he said, noting that it was those HUD-funded entities, rather than the agency itself, that illegally allowed fugitives to remain in public housing.

That argument is part of a finger-pointing game that ultimately hurts taxpayers and benefits fugitives:

  • Local authorities point to HUD policy that allows them discretion concerning fugitive evictions.
  • The IG’s Madden said it’s HUD’s job to ensure fugitives don’t live in agency-funded units and that it’s law enforcement’s job to arrest them.

Meanwhile, the fugitives may remain ensconced undisturbed in publicly funded residences.

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