California landlords pay $390,000 to settle race,national origin, and sex discrimination claims

In August, the owners and managers of two apartment complexes in Riverside, California agreed to pay $390,000 in damages and penalties to settle allegations that they sexually harassed female tenants and discriminated against African-American and Latino tenants. The settlement resolved a Justice Department lawsuit filed in federal district court.

The defendants in the lawsuit include the owners, William David Wingo and Karen Wingo Cipriano, and their apartment manager, Vincent “Vinnie” Stancyk. Wingo and Cipriano owned the 31-unit Rio Palmas apartment complex until May 1999, currently own the 70-unit Las Casitas apartment complex, and also own and manage several other properties in the Riverside, California area.

DOJ investigation revealed discrimination against African Americans, Latinos, and women

The complaint, filed April 10, 2001, in federal District Court in Santa Ana, California alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against African Americans, Latinos, and women at the Rio Palmas and Las Casitas complexes in Riverside. The complaint alleged that Stancyk subjected female tenants at the complex to repeated and unwelcome sexual harassment, including conditioning the privileges of tenancy on tenants performing sexual acts. The Justice Department alleged that Wingo and Cipriano knew or should have known about this harassment and took no action to halt or prevent it.

The Justice Department also alleged that the defendants engaged in a variety of discriminatory  conduct toward African American and Latino apartment-seekers. The Justice Department alleged that the defendants refused to rent to African Americans and Latinos, threw away their rental applications, used racial epithets, refused to let tenants have minority guests, and evicted tenants because of their race or national origin or the race of national origin of their guests.

Under the settlement, the defendants agreed to the following terms:

  • to pay $355,000 to persons who were harmed by the discrimination at the complexes;
  • to pay a $35,000 civil penalty to the United States;
  • to repair the credit histories and remove judgment liens for tenants who were wrongfully evicted;
  • to establish a comprehensive non-discrimination and antiharassment policy and complaint procedure at complexes they own and manage;
  • to retain an independent fair housing organization to train their employees on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and other anti-discrimination laws; and
  • to retain an independent fair housing organization to conduct periodic testing at their properties to determine whether employees are complying with such laws.

Manager is barred from rental real estate industry

Manager Stancyk will be barred from working in the rental real estate business. Stancyk’s employment with Wingo and Cipriano has been terminated.

"This was an egregious case that required strong remedies,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. “This agreement makes it clear that individuals who engage in unlawful housing discrimination, and the people who employ them, will be held accountable for the harm they cause.”

Anyone who has information about this case, or believes he or she was a victim of discrimination at the Rio Palmas or Las Casitas Apartments in Riverside, Calif., should call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743.