Several Oklahoma City landlords have agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a Fair Housing Act lawsuit that alleged that their former agent sexually harassed current and prospective female tenants.
The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that the defendants — the agent's wife, Rosemarie Pelfrey, Omega Enterprises LLC and Pelfrey Investment Company Inc. — would pay $1.2 million in damages to the victims in addition to a civil penalty fine of $50,000 to the U.S.
Prosecutors allege that Walter Ray Pelfrey, who died in 2018, groped female tenants, entered their homes without their consent, evicted or threatened to evict female tenants if they skirted his sexual advances and told prospective female tenants that in order for them to get housing they’d have to participate in sexual acts.
The lawsuit against Walter Pelfrey estimates that the documented behavior occurred over nearly 20 years.
“For nearly 20 years, more than 40 female tenants and prospective tenants endured abhorrent sexual harassment when all they wanted was a safe place to call home,” acting U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester for the Western District of Oklahoma said in a statement.
“Tenants have the right under federal fair housing laws to be free from unwanted sexual harassment in order to obtain or maintain housing. The magnitude of this settlement and consent order demonstrates that the Justice Department will neither tolerate this type of discrimination from abusers nor ignore the vulnerable victims who suffer this abuse,” Troester said in a statement.
The Associated Press’s message asking for comment from the lawyers representing the companies was not immediately returned on Wednesday.