Tenant board leader arrested

He is charged with theft by underreporting income to boost his rent subsidy

October 04, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

The president of the tenant council advisory board at the Pleasant View Gardens townhouse development in East Baltimore was arrested yesterday on charges that he stole more than $10,000 from the city Housing Authority by underreporting his income.

Darryl K. Royster, 36, was taken into custody at his home in the 1000 block of New Hope Circle, where he had lived for five years. Police took him to Central Booking, where he was awaiting a bail-review hearing.

An investigation by the Housing Authority's office of the inspector general covers October 1999 to September of this year. The case was taken to a city grand jury, which handed up an indictment Sept. 26.

Hilton L. Green, the authority's inspector general, said Royster submitted rental documents that understated his wages, which allowed him to receive a higher rental subisidy.

Pleasant View Gardens, on the grounds of the old Lafayette Courts public housing project, is a mixed-income neighborhood. The majority of its residents have subsidized rents.

"He deflated his wage information so that he could continue to have his rent paid for by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City," said Green, whose office operates as an independent agency, separate from HABC. "To be honest with you, we're tired of that kind of [thing]."

John Wesley, the housing agency spokesman, said Royster's arrest was a surprise. Wesley said he had worked with Royster several times in the past, including an effort last year that provided food and winter clothing to at least 3,000 people. The distribution was held at Pleasant View Gardens.

"He went door to door in order to make sure the seniors were there early," said Wesley. "He was someone who worked very hard to help improve the lot of economically disadvantaged people."

Wesley said housing officials were not part of the investigation and that they knew Royster through his advocacy work on behalf of the tenants. He described the tenant advocate as "never confrontational. He was more of a negotiator."

Before moving to the Pleasant View townhouse development, Royster lived with his parents in other city public housing. His arrest sends a message that integrity is expected at all levels of the Housing Authority and shows that the inspector general's office is following through on its mandate, said Wesley.

"While the commissioner can applaud the efforts to maintain integrity, having had the opportunity to work with Mr. Royster, he was surprised to know that this kind of situation existed," said Wesley. "He's disappointed that someone who has given so much finds [himself] in a situation like this."

Because of the indictment, Royster could be evicted. Wesley said housing officials have not decided on that.

If convicted, Royster could serve 15 years in prison, be fined up to $1,000 or both.

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