Real Estate

Virginia Landlord Arrested For Racial Discrimination, Rampant Fraud

David Merryman is accused by federal prosecutors of subjecting his Black tenants to violence and racist slurs.

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A Virginia landlord is facing federal fraud and civil rights abuse charges for allegedly terrorizing his Black tenants.

The landlord, 58-year-old David Merryman, owns more than 60 rental properties and a landscaping company in Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. He is accused by federal prosecutors of subjecting his tenants to violence, threats of violence and racist slurs and of defrauding the federal government to receive rent relief benefits and assistance payments for public housing.

The indictment, which was unsealed last week, details several incidents of Merryman using graphic threats of racist violence against his tenants, as well as incidents where he followed through on his threats, such as when he allegedly struck a tenant with a shovel and threatened another with a chainsaw.

Merryman’s use of racial slurs included one incident when a female tenant’s house became backed up with sewage. Merryman allegedly said it was “probably her weave” and instructed the tenant to “clean the house like when you were slaves.”

When another tenant requested Merryman fix his broken air conditioner, Merryman allegedly responded “Y’all should be used to that. You’re Black, you can take the heat a little bit,” according to the indictment.

Merryman is further accused of defrauding the government and his tenants. One of his alleged schemes involved making false claims to the Department of Housing and Urban Development about the condition of his properties to receive housing assistance payments. Another saw him submit fraudulent applications for rental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic by forging his tenants’ signatures and stealing their identities. While collecting large relief checks, Merryman evicted some of the tenants he was allegedly defrauding for unpaid rent.

Merryman would cycle through tenants in order to continue demanding significant upfront fees or security deposits that he never intended to return, prosecutors allege. He also regularly took money and property from tenants under the false pretense that he would reimburse them for repairs they did themselves or paid for on his properties.

It’s not the first time the landlord has faced federal charges. He was arrested for failing to comply with a judge’s orders in 2022 after he was ordered to pay nearly $46,000 in back wages and damages for his landscaping company.

Merryman faces 10 counts of wire fraud, four counts of interfering with housing rights, six counts of theft of government money, and four counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for each count of aggravated identity theft, with maximum sentences ranging from one to 20 years for each of the other charges.

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