1,300 Fugitives Were Living In Federally-Funded Housing, Now Grassley Demands To Know Why

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley thinks it’s time for a federal watchdog to cough up some answers about a disturbing report it withheld from Congress and taxpayers on an estimated 1,300 wanted criminal fugitives living in subsidized public housing.

The Iowa Republican also wants to know why the Department of Housing and Urban Development apparently isn’t enforcing the law against criminals living in federally subsidized housing.

“The HUD Inspector General needs to explain whether the wanted fugitive felon report was final or not and if there are problems with the data,” Grassley told The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday. “And HUD needs to explain why the federal law isn’t being enforced.”

“These discrepancies don’t inspire confidence that the agency has a good handle on wanted fugitive felons in public housing or that the residents are being adequately protected,” Grassley told TheDCNF. “Inspector general reports should be public with very few exceptions.”

Grassley was referring to an unreleased report of the 1,300 fugitives prepared in 2012 by the HUD Inspector General first made public by TheDCNF July 26. An IG spokesman told TheDCNF then that the report was a draft that contained unspecified “data problems.”

TheDCNF’s reporting led Grassley on Aug. 8 to ask HUD Secretary Julian Castro what his agency is doing to enforce a law that prohibits fugitives from living in federally-funded homes and to provide the number of wanted felons currently residing in such units. HUD refused to provide those details to TheDCNF.

The IG has repeatedly refused to answer TheDCNF’s questions about why the report was withheld. The report was kept as a “draft” because of “questions about the validity of the data,” IG spokesman Darryl Madden said, but he refused to provide additional details. The document also lacked the typical “draft” markings.

Nothing changed when TheDCNF asked again.

“As we have previously stated, the recent reporting of alleged fugitive felons was based on a draft, pre-decisional, work product that contained inaccurate information which should not be relied upon,” a HUD IG spokesman who asked not be named told TheDCNF. “This report was never forwarded to the department based on an internal analysis at the time of the data used for the 2012 document.”

“It should have been appropriately marked ‘Draft,’” the spokesman said.

Additionally, apprehending fugitives in federally-funded housing is law enforcement’s job, while keeping fugitives out of such homes is HUD’s role, Madden previously said.

Yet the IG boasted about its Fugitive Felon Initiative in its semiannual reports from March 2003 to September 2012, which created lists of fugitives receiving assistance from HUD and provided them to law enforcement and local housing authorities. The IG-led program led to nearly 9,000 arrests.

The unnamed IG spokesman refused to explain the discrepancy.

The IG stopped mentioning the Fugitive Felon Initiative after its September 2012 semiannual report, which was published about seven months after the IG uncovered the 1,300 fugitives.

The spokesman also refused to say if the anti-fugitive program is still operating.

There are also still questions about the scope of the problem because the 1,300 fugitives were found in just one HUD region. The unpublished IG document was categorized as a “systemic implications report,” which means there’s a concern that there may be more runaway felons living in federally-funded houses nationwide.

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