Virginia landlord accused of terrorizing tenants, defrauding HUD

David Merryman allegedly harassed Black tenants with violence and racist slurs

Virginia Landlord Accused of Terrorizing Black Tenants
A photo illustration of landlord David L. Merryman (Getty, Newport Police Department)

A Virginia-based landlord was indicted by a federal grand jury last week for allegedly using force and threats against Black victims, defrauding tenants, and orchestrating a scheme to illegally obtain government funds.

David L. Merryman, 58, who owns more than 60 rental properties in Hampton and Newport News, allegedly subjected his tenants to a campaign of harassment, involving racist slurs, threats of violence, and retaliatory eviction actions, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The indictment outlines instances of graphic threats referencing slavery, and derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. Merryman is also accused of physical assaults, such as striking a tenant with a shovel and threatening another with a chainsaw.

The indictment further accuses Merryman of defrauding the government and tenants through false representations. 

To secure housing-assistance payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Merryman allegedly made repeated false claims about the condition of his properties. Additionally, he is accused of submitting fraudulent applications for rent-relief benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic by stealing tenants’ identities and forging signatures without consent. While obtaining significant sums in relief, Merryman allegedly evicted tenants for unpaid rent without informing them.

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Merryman’s alleged fraud extended to deceiving tenants for financial gain. The indictment alleges that he obtained money and property from tenants under false pretenses, promising property repairs or reimbursements that he never intended to fulfill, prosecutors said. This deceptive pattern involved demanding significant upfront fees or deposits, subjecting tenants to discriminatory practices, and cycling through new tenants, they allege.

The charges against Merryman include 10 counts of wire fraud, four counts of interfering with housing rights, two counts of interstate communications with threats to injure, six counts of theft of government money, four counts of making false statements to HUD, and four counts of aggravated identity theft. 

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If convicted, Merryman could face mandatory minimum sentences of two years for each count of aggravated identity theft, with maximum sentences ranging from one to 20 years for other charges.

This isn’t the first time Merryman has been in trouble with the feds. U.S. Marshalls arrested him on a bench warrant for failing to comply with a judge’s orders in 2022. He was ordered to pay almost $46,000 in back wages and damages to unpaid workers of his landscaping company, Merryman Grounds Maintenance.