Siegel Suites Boulder Highway Las Vegas - Siegel Suites Boulder III, Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at the Boulder Expressway in Las Vegas. (Steel Brooks/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A view of the Siegel Suites at Bonanza Road and Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @csstevensphoto
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One of the Siegel Group emails was released as part of a US House investigation into evictions of major tenants.
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A photojournalist from the US House of Representatives reports on major landlord evacuations during the disaster. The episode shows how the bosses of the Siegel Group scam their tenants.
Siegel Group operators used aggressive tactics, including fraud and extortion, to evict tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic, a US House committee investigation found.
According to the documents, a Las Vegas landlord may have violated federal law by falsely telling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tenants would not be forced to evict.
"While the reversals described in this report would be critical under any circumstances, they are unthinkable in this century's economic and public health crisis," the representative wrote. James Clyburn, chairman of the committee and House Majority Whip. , statement.
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The select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis spent last year investigating whether the four companies abused the crisis, but the 41-page report concluded that Siegel Group's actions were "absolutely egregious." at a time when the company was worth millions in federal aid. .
The report said Siegel's employees were given a list of harassment tactics to evict tenants.
In one example from May 2021, a company director proposed a way to "get rid" of a former tenant in San Antonio. These included replacing her air conditioner with a broken unit, having security knock on her bedroom door at least twice a night, and calling child protective services if there were too many people in her room.
"I don't want this person to sit in our room for free," wrote Mike Tisdale, senior vice president of operations, in an email released by investigators.
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The committee asked Texas authorities to investigate whether the company's employees made false allegations of child abuse or neglect about a tenant, which is a felony under state law. An official with the Department of Family and Protective Services said Thursday that the agency is investigating the matter.
According to documents released Thursday, a House committee referred its findings to two federal agencies, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to investigate whether the Siegel Group's actions constituted fraudulent or unfair business practices.
Gov. Steve Sisolak said in an email from his office that the owners of a company that "exploits and abuses vulnerable Nevada families" is "horrific and appalling."
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford called the report "appalling and shocking" in a statement. His staff will review documents that may violate state laws related to the elimination of infectious diseases.
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The committee found that the Siegel Group, which operates an integrated chain of hotels with approximately 12,000 units in eight states, had "barely reduced revenue" in the period before the disaster. As of mid-2021, more than 20 Siegel Suites and Siegel Select properties will be located in the Las Vegas Valley, totaling nearly 4,000 rental units, according to property listings.
Siegel's attorney wrote in a statement that he was surprised company executives had not called them before the report came out.
"The Siegel team is committed to always complying with the laws that apply to our operations. We will keep a roof over people's heads and keep people employed," wrote Sean Tuyon, executive vice president and general counsel. "This is what we always do. COVER THE SIEGEL!"
Many of the findings of the investigation centered on Siegel's actions in May 2021, documented in several internal emails obtained and released by the committee.
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At Tisdale's repeated instructions, workers began uploading and providing tenants with copies of a recent federal court decision that overturned CDC's suspension, the report said.
However, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich also did not tell the tenants that the decision was stayed pending appeal, the investigation shows. Suspended until the end of July.
On May 10, the general manager of the Boulder Expressway property explained that a copy of the judgment had been distributed to the tenants.
"I like to say that this means the evacuation will be faster than expected and you will see their faces," the manager wrote, adding a smiley face symbol at the end of the sentence.
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"I'm hearing positive feedback from properties that have been using this order to turn people away," he wrote. "I hope you're all doing the same."
Later that month, in an email to a recent San Antonio tenant, Tisdale instructed employees to provide copies of the judge's decision no later than 5 p.m. On Friday, the tenant did not need to call the court or law enforcement officials to verify its validity, the report said.
"When the police came, it only took him 5 minutes to get everything," Tisdale wrote. "Let's see if it will be removed by the end of the week."
Jim Berchtold, an attorney with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, said the investigation confirms what he's heard from many clients who lived in Las Vegas Valley homes during the disaster.
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"It's really just a list of bad things that we've had in the last few years," he said.
A House committee launched its investigation in July 2021 after reports emerged that the Siegel Group and other landlords had moved to evict tenants at high prices despite more than $46 billion in federal rental assistance from the CDC and Congress.
The article revealed that between April and December 2020, law enforcement obtained 450 eviction orders from Siegel Group properties in Southern Nevada.
Most of the tenant evictions occurred while statewide or federal eviction moratoriums were in effect. However, court records show that the apartments were originally evicted from the tenants in a "no-cause" eviction process, which is not directly covered by the moratorium.
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The board's investigation included the Siegel Group's eviction until July 2021 and three other property owners: Ventron Management, Pretium Partners and Invitation Homes. More than 50,000 documents from the four companies were reviewed, the report said.
Investigators initially found 573 evacuation files from Siegel's team, but eventually found about 200 files.
The report said the company filed hundreds of eviction petitions without cause "to avoid the CDC's eviction protections for tenants."
At least 89 tenants were evicted after applying for rental assistance, and one tenant received assistance on the day of the eviction, according to the report.
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However, the actual number of people excluded may be higher. Siegel Group does not have a central system to track filings, and company officials have admitted to losing some documents, according to filings.
The company received at least $5.5 million in federal disaster relief, including rent assistance and more than $2 million in loan forgiveness through the Payment Protection Program.
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