EXCLUSIVE: Feds Ordered To Track Down The Felons Living In Public Housing

Ethan Barton | Investigative Reporter

Sen. Chuck Grassley is not happy that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Inspector General can’t figure out how many felony fugitives live in federally-funded public housing, so he’s told the watchdog to do whatever it takes to get the answer.

“It is troubling that the full number of wanted fugitive felons living in public housing remains unknown, unexplained, undocumented and unjustified,” the Iowa Republican wrote in a letter to HUD Inspector General (IG) David Montoya Wednesday. “Tenants deserve to know if a wanted fugitive felon is living in the same housing project.”

So, Grassley wants the HUD IG to do “a thorough, nationwide investigation into the number of wanted fugitive felons living in public housing and the adequacy of controls in place to prevent that from occurring. The American people need assurance that HUD is enforcing the law and ensuring the safety and security of public housing tenants.”

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a long-time congressional advocate on behalf of the more than 70 federal watchdogs whose sole job is to expose waste, fraud and mis-management in the executive branch bureaucracy.

Grassley cited recent Daily Caller News Foundation articles reporting  a 2012 HUD IG report that found housing authorities refused to evict 1,300 felony fugitives from their tax-funded homes. The fugitives were wanted for crimes like rape and murder. (RELATED: 1,300 Fugitives Were Living In Federally-Funded Housing, Now Grassley Demands To Know Why)

The HUD IG told TheDCNF the report was a draft and that there were errors with the data, but repeatedly refused to explain the errors.

Then the watchdog told Grassley’s staff “that the HUD data was not properly matched with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database,” the senator said in his letter to Montoya.

“Accordingly, the total number of actual felons in public housing was unknown. My staff was told that the [IG] has not successfully matched the data in the four years since this draft document was created,” Grassley continued.

Meanwhile, the HUD IG’s 2012 semiannual reports showed the watchdog was participating in the Fugitive Felon Initiative, which sought to apprehend fugitives for violent crimes. The watchdog stopped mentioning the program in its twice-yearly reports after 2012.

The 1,300 fugitives were also only confined to one HUD region, and it’s likely that the problem persists nationwide. Yet it appears that neither HUD, nor the IG are stopping fugitives from illegally living in public housing.

“Although public housing authorities (PHA) receive upwards 90 percent of their funding from the federal government, HUD asserts it has little authority over how the PHAs operate,” Grassley wrote. “It is HUD’s responsibility to ensure that there are adequate controls to prevent wanted felons from living in public housing across the country.”

Grassley also wants information on what the watchdog has done to match the 1,300 fugitives with the NCIC database, what else the IG has done to investigate fugitive felons living in public housing, and whether the watchdog is still participating in the Fugitive Felon Initiative.

The HUD IG has repeatedly refused to answer those questions when asked by TheDCNF.

Grassley previously asked HUD Secretary Julian Castro why his agency was allowing felony fugitives to live in federally-funded housing.

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