JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tennessee, confirmed that federal housing investigators have issued search warrants for Global Ministries Foundation's headquarters in the Memphis suburb of Cordova and at a third-party location in Dexter, Missouri.
Seven Jacksonville public housing projects, including Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights, are among 61 that Global Ministries owns across the country. The nonprofit foundation's Jacksonville properties have been the subject of I-TEAM reports since last fall and subject of local, state and federal investigations.
When the city of Jacksonville inspected 160 of the 400 units at Eureka Gardens in October, it found 340 safety, health or code violations. Inspectors found mold, crumbling stairs and carbon monoxide leaks at the property.
The I-TEAM learned the raids are tied to a financial investigation that began in Florida.
Audrey Young, of Global Ministries media relations, issued this statement late Wednesday:
GMF is fully cooperating with recent HUD inquiries and requests for documentation, and we will continue to aid HUD and other government representatives should they have additional inquiries. In the interim, GMF remains focused and committed to its mission to provide housing to some of America’s families most in need of safe, affordable housing."
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who toured Eureka Gardens earlier this year and has met with federal Department of Housing and Urban Development officials and introduced amendments to federal legislation to tighten oversight of private owners of subsidized housing projects, also issued a statement Wednesday.
It's about time that federal investigators go after the slumlords at Global Ministries Foundation for stealing millions in taxpayer dollars and forcing residents across the country, including three properties in Florida, to live in deplorable public housing conditions. This investigation is just getting started, but I am confident these slumlords will be held accountable for stealing money and endangering the public health and safety of families."
News4Jax has crews at Eureka Gardens, but there was no sign of unusual activity, but tenant association president Tracey Grant, who first contacted the ITEAM one year ago to complain of deplorable living conditions for over 800 residents was pleased to hear about the raids.
"I would have never thought within a year's time all this would have happened," Grant said. "For three and a half years, he (GMF owner Richard Hamlet) owned this property. It's been going on for years. I want to see him criminally charged."
City Council member Garrett Dennis sees the raids as confirmation that federal housing officials are taking the investigation of GMF seriously.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the citizens have his support.
"I fully support any continued efforts to address the needs and concerns of citizens seeking safe and affordable housing," Curry said. "This federal investigation illustrates the importance of stronger oversight and accountability to protect and serve taxpayers."
"In light of today's news, it is confirmation that you cannot take advantage of people and the very system that is designed to help those that need it the most," Dennis said. "I look forward to closing this chapter and starting a new one that will include owners who have the desire to making places like Eureka Gardens a place that one can be proud to call home."
GMF put its seven Jacksonville properties up for sale earlier this year.
The I-TEAM learned of a third federal raid of a HUD property took place Wednesday in Indianapolis, but HUD told us that was not connected to the other raids.
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