Scotland Co. Agency Settles With Feds In Sex-for-Housing Vouchers Lawsuit
A nonprofit public housing agency in Scotland County and two of its former employees have agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment of women who applied for or received federal public housing vouchers. A lawsuit alleging sexual harassment was first filed in 2012 against what was then called Four County Community Services.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a related lawsuit last December, naming the agency – now called Southeastern Community and Family Services - and former employees John Wesley and Eric Pender. Wesley was the Section 8 housing coordinator at Southeastern, which has offices in Laurinburg and Lumberton. Pender was a housing inspector. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of 16 women.
“They were approached with essentially an offer: If you have sex with us, we’ll help you with your benefits. If you don’t have sex with us, ‘Good luck,'" says Greensboro attorney Craig Hensel, one of the attorneys for the women.
Hensel says they targeted women who were vulnerable and less likely to be believed if they told anyone what was going on.
“They picked women in desperate situations, often with criminal histories, often with other problems that would very likely have been overlooked had it not been for the enormity of what was going on and the number of people we were able to bring forward to corroborate this."
Legal Aid of North Carolina, which also represented the women in this case, says lawyers suspect that more women seeking federal housing vouchers were victims of sexual harassment in Scotland and surrounding counties. The U.S. Justice Department has set-up a toll-free number to receive any additional complaints. That number is 1-800-896-7743. People can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.