A Wichita landlord has been charged with sex discrimination, accused of demanding sex in exchange for rent payments and then evicting tenants when they refused his advances.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed the charge this week against Thong Cao, who owns multiple rental properties around Wichita and managed at least one other.
“Landlords who use their position to intimidate or harass residents or to attempt to trade sexual favors for rent violate the sanctity of a woman’s home, the place where she should feel the safest,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
Two women are named as victims in the charging document, though their identities were redacted in the document made public. One lived at a property in the 6100 block of West York Court from late 2010 to the summer of 2014.
She served as a property manager while living there. During her tenancy, the charging document reports, Cao made comments such as “If you ever want a sugar daddy, you should consider me because I am rich, and I can take care of you.”
Cao would smack or grab her buttocks and urinate in front of her without closing the bathroom door, the document said. He would also make comments that her boyfriend, who lived with her, did not love her but that Cao did.
If he was angry, the woman said, or he had experienced a loss while gambling, he would call her a “white, honky (expletive).”
In or around August 2013, the document reports, Cao stopped paying the woman cash for any property management duties that exceeded her $800 monthly rent. When she pleaded for money for her duties a few months later, Cao informed her she could “work off” her $800 a month rental payment through her property manager duties or she could sleep with him once a week in exchange for her rent “and still put money in her pocket.”
She rejected his offer to exchange sex for rent. The following April, she was asleep in a T-shirt and underwear when she woke up to find Cao sitting on her bed with his hand up under her blanket and rubbing her feet, the court filing said.
She screamed at him to get out and then got dressed. When she went downstairs, he was in her living room and he insisted she go with him to look at a unit needing repair. While he was driving, the court filing said, Cao called her a “honky (expletive)” and told her he was her boss.
She left the truck at a stop light, extremely upset, and walked home. She began staying in Kingman but kept her belongings at the property on York.
She was served with an eviction notice that June. The court filing alleges the eviction occurred because the woman rejected Cao’s sexual advances.
The second woman moved into a fourplex at 1614 E.Tulsa in early 2014. About a month later, the court filing reported, Cao came to her unit and asked “Where your man at? Can you give me some coochy, coochy, coochy?”
A month later, he returned to collect rent and again requested “coochy,” the document said. She asked him why and whether he had a wife, and Cao said his wife did not give “coochy.”
In mid-May, the court filing said, the woman contacted Cao about a loose toilet. He came to the unit to inspect the toilet. When he moved to get up from the inspection, he grabbed the woman’s breast. She struck his hand and told him to leave.
On a separate occasion, the woman’s daughter saw Cao smack her mother’s buttocks, upsetting her mother.
After what happened in May, the court document said, Cao was not returning to the unit to repair the toilet. The woman contacted the city, which inspected the unit and sent a letter to Cao outlining necessary repairs.
On July 1, the woman was only able to pay $300 of her $450 rent. Cao agreed to let her pay the rest on July 18. Two days later, the woman filed a report with police, saying Cao was asking her for sex in exchange for rent.
Cao came to the unit on July 16, asking for the rest of the rent. When she told him she still had two more days to pay, he asked whether she was going to give him some “coochy, coochy,” the court filing states. She screamed at him and rejected him. He went to his truck and wrote a notice giving her three days to vacate the unit.
The woman received a notice of an eviction hearing scheduled for the last day of July. The day after that notice arrived, she spoke about the sexual harassment from Cao to police officers on the property for a different reason, according to the court filing. One of the officers told her a former tenant had presented a similar complaint about him.
The next day, she filed for a Protection Against Stalking order against Cao, alleging “Landlord is asking for sex when he is called to fix things in the house and to get rent. I feel violated and feel like he won’t stop till he gets what he wants, willingly or unwillingly.”
The woman and her grandchildren were evicted on Aug. 1. She paid Cao $210 so she could access her belongings.
Also charged with sex discrimination in the complaint are Mai Cao, Thong Cao’s wife, who owns the York property with him. Van T. Le and Tong Nguyen, who own the Tulsa property, were also charged with sex discrimination.
The case will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge unless any party involved requests that the case be heard in federal court.