OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Justice Department reached a $1.25 million settlement Wednesday with the estate of an Oklahoma City man to resolve claims of sexual harassment against female tenants.
The man and landlord at the center of the case, Walter Ray Pelfrey, has been dead since 2018. According to a news release from the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, Robert Troester, Pelfrey allegedly asked tenants for sex in exchange for rent and even housing as a whole.
Pelfrey may have died in 2018, but the sexual assault allegations loomed against he and his estate. Over 40 victims are claiming he committed the acts over the past 20 years at dozens of properties he owned or managed around the Oklahoma City metro.
The suit is set to force a payout of $1.2 million in damages to the alleged victims and another $50,000 in civil penalties to the U.S. government. Prosecutors allege he demanded “…prospective tenants engage in sexual acts to obtain housing, offering to reduce rent and overlooking unpaid rent in exchange for sexual intercourse or contact, evicting and threatening to evict female tenants for refusing his sexual advances.” The report goes on to say Pelfrey allegedly groped women and entered their homes “unannounced and without their consent to further these advances.”
The lawsuit isn’t all though. In 2016, Oklahoma City police learned teenager Geanna Durham went missing. It was alleged that the girl’s mom, Reshawnda Durham, failed to report finding her dead daughter at her Oklahoma City home. Durham allegedly took her body to a storage facility owned by Pelfrey, where she rented a unit, and allegedly left her daughter’s body there. Pelfrey was then alleged to have instructed his employees to clear out the contents of Durham’s rental unit and delete her rental records.
Pelfrey was charged in the case with one count of accessory after the fact. He was also charged with one count of unlawful removal of a body or, in the alternative, desecration of a human corpse.
A Justice Department news release states “the defendants — Rosemarie Pelfrey, in her capacity as trustee of two named trusts and as personal representative of Pelfrey’s estate, Omega Enterprises LLC and Pelfrey Investment Company Inc. — were named in the lawsuit because they owned the properties at which the discriminatory conduct took place, and are therefore vicariously liable for their agent Pelfrey’s harassment.”
The settlement states the defendants must provide Fair Housing Act training for their employees, provide a complaint procedure to tenants and release judgments obtained against victims whom Pelfrey wrongfully evicted.