Convicted criminal getting free money from the state - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Convicted criminal getting free money from the state

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The nephew of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson has been paying his rent with the help of a taxpayer subsidy even though he was convicted and served time for stabbing and killing a man, a record that should have disqualified him from receiving the benefit.

What's more, the South End building where Jasiya Muhtadi, formerly known as Jermaine Berry, lives is owned by a non-profit where another Wilkerson connection works. Monica Dean is the Director of Organizing & Resident Services at Nuestra Comunidad, which developed and still owns the West Newton Street building.

Muhtadi was convicted under his previous name of voluntary manslaughter for stabbing and killing a man in 1994. Prosecutors in court records called it a "senseless act" that began with a staredown between two strangers outside a Mattapan social club and ended with Muhtadi, then named Berry, stabbing the man and spitting on his body.

He was sentenced to 12-15 years in prison. Within weeks of his release on Dec. 31, 2009, Muhtadi was applying for the subsidy.
"Just wanted to ask you about your West Newton Street apatment. Wondering how you got that place?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked Muhtadi.

"You're wondering how I got that place?" asked Muhtadi, who continued walking to his car.

His conviction for a violent crime should have disqualified him from receiving the subsidy for the unit, but Muhtadi has some connections not everyone getting out of prison has.

"You have a serious criminal record and that's subsidized housing, isn't it? Does the fact that you're related to Dianne Wilkerson have anything to do with it?" Beaudet asked, but Muhtadi just shook his head, got into his car and drove away.

Wilkerson, a Roxbury Democrat, was a longtime powerhouse in city politics and, until Gov. Deval Patrick's election, was the highest-ranking black elected official in Massachusetts.

Wilkerson's political career imploded when she was charged and eventually pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges after she was photographed stuffing bribe money into her bra. She was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison.

As for Dean, she and one of Wilkerson's sons had a daughter together.

"I can see how from the outside the appearances make it look like something improper happened," said David Price, executive director of Nuestra Comunidad. "That's one reason we were extremely concerned and we aggressively investigated and we collected the facts. And it doesn't appear that anything improper happened."

Price says nothing improper happened at Nuestra, even if Dean did not disclose what she knew about Muhtadi's record.

"She had to have known about his record. C'mon," asked Beaudet.

"At the time there was no rule here at Nuestra that staff are required to disclose personal knowledge of someone's criminal record," Price replied.

The criminal record of Muhtadi and every other applicant is supposed to be checked before a subsidy is given. That criminal record check, known as a CORI, should have picked up Muhtadi's manslaughter conviction.

Price wouldn't discuss Muhtadi's CORI, except to say his agency was not aware of the conviction.

"The unfortunate thing that did happen is someone convicted of a violent crime got housing in one of our properties, but that goes back to the CORI board and the CORI system that failed us in this case," he said.

"With all due respect, that explanation doesn't sound believable," said Beaudet.

"To me it doesn't sound believable that the CORI system failed, that the entire housing system depends on it, so this really undermines the confidence in that system," said Price.

"Didn't your manager fail?" asked Beaudet.

"I don't think so. She followed the rules and procedures and?that were place at that time," Price replied.

The Boston Housing Authority also had problems uncovering Muhtadi's past. That's the agency that ran the CORI for Nuestra when he applied in early 2010.

"Based on the information that we had at the time, when we did the screening he qualified for the program. We have since received new information and based on that information we are seeking termination of his subsidy," said BHA spokesperson Lydia Agro.

BHA began terminating the subsidy after being questioned by FOX Undercover, which found Muhtadi's court records in Suffolk Superior Court and confirmed his conviction through a publicly-available CORI request.

"We ran a background check on him and his criminal conviction is listed there. If you have that information at that time, would that have raised a red flag?" Beaudet asked.

"Absolutely, and it's based on that information now that we are seeking termination of his subsidy," Agro replied.

The Massachusetts Department of Probation is responsible for entering the criminal record information that appear on individuals' CORI records. A spokesperson for the department, Coria Holland, said that after FOX Undercover inquired about the matter, officials there found the manslaughter conviction under both Muhtadi's and Berry's name. Holland said she couldn't address the contention by Nuestra and Boston Housing Authority that fault for the voucher's being granted to Muhtadi lay with CORI.

In addition to revoking Muhtadi's subsidy, the BHA is also asking the state agency that pays for these rental vouchers to review the BHA's tenant selection procedures.

Nuestra Comuniad also made changes in the wake of FOX Undercover's asking questions. It will begin requiring its management company to perform more in-depth background checks on potential tenants.

Nuestra's executive director also says he has no evidence that former Senator Wilkerson intervened with her nephew's housing voucher. Wilkerson did not respond to a letter sent to her at federal prison in Danbury, Conn., and her attorney in her corruption case did not respond to a message left on his phone.
 

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