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Essex Village in court over 18 criminal charges

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RICHMOND, Va., -- An attorney representing the owners of the Essex Village apartments appeared in front of a Henrico County General District Court judge for an arraignment on charges related to problems that have been the subject of an ongoing CBS 6 investigation.

The defendant, Essex VA Investors LLC, Paraco Inc. of Mechanicsville, has more than a dozen criminal summonses issued by the county. The company faces a total of 18 building code violation charges, according to online records.

Two of the five misdemeanor counts brought up in court Friday morning were described on court documents as violating Virginia code section. The violations included failing to properly maintain plumbing fixtures, garbage disposal, and sink pipes leaking to cabinet base;  abate mice infestation; and failure to maintain interior structure in good repair, holes, and baseboards in a mechanical closet, which allowed pest and rodent entry.

An attorney representing the county said the 18 charges were grouped into three offense topics, including broken porches.  That attorney told the judge they plan to go to trial without settling.

A woman, who county officials said were representing the Essex Village apartments in court, briefly spoke to reporters after the hearing.

Black substance growing on the wall at Essex Village

"We can't make a comment at this time, I'm sorry," she said. "We will be meeting with our residents."

No time frame was given when that meeting may be scheduled.

The next court date for the five misdemeanor counts arraigned on Friday is scheduled for Sept. 25.

The 13 other building code violation charges are scheduled to be heard on July 28 and August 4.

County officials showed CBS 6's original report to the Henrico County Board of Supervisors during a June meeting about problems at the low-income housing complex prior to announcing the criminal summonses.

Essex Village balcony

In April, the owner Greg Pearlman told us they had maintained the property well, and in the past couple of months things had not been up to their standards.

He promised residents would see major changes by the beginning of May, and some residents said improvements are happening.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paid the company managing Essex Village more than $150 million to subsidize the rent of residents at low-income housing complexes across the country in 2016.

The numbers were uncovered by a CBS 6 investigation after Congressman Donald McEachin called for HUD to terminate their business with PK Management, which manages three Section 8 facilities in Henrico County: Essex Village, Woodland Crossing and Hope Village.

McEachin said PK Management properties is not meeting the spirit of its obligation to provide safe and sanitary housing.

PK Management and their parent company, GHC Housing, received $152,110, 882 from HUD in 2016, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to HUD.

The company receives more than $7 million a year from HUD to subsidize rent at its housing complexes.

Other elected officials are also beginning to respond to the ongoing investigation into the Henrico apartment complex.

State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County) said the living conditions at Essex Village are "egregious" and she is currently in the process of drafting a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.


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