Sexual predator landlord in Wisconsin to pay $500K to victims

Rick and Mary Donahue nailed with $124,000 civil penalty for harassment, retaliation against 13 female tenants since 2000

Sexual Predator Landlord in Wisconsin to pay $500K to Victims
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Thirteen victims of a landlord who sexually harassed his tenants over 24 years are due $500,000, according to the Department of Justice.

Rick and Mary Donahue, who own more than 100 rental properties in and around Janesville, Wisconsin, agreed to pay the half a million dollars, plus a civil penalty of a little under $124,000, the maximum allowed by the Fair Housing Act, according to a news release.

Rick Donahue “harassed female tenants by making repeated and unwelcome sexual comments, touching tenants’ bodies without their consent, demanding sexual activity in exchange for rent and housing-related benefits, and taking adverse actions against tenants who resisted his sexual advances or complained about the harassment,” the news release states.

The lawsuit, filed in 2022, also accused him of entering victims’ homes without their consent, WCLO reported. The Donahues settled the suit last week, but required a judge’s approval.

The Donahues agreed to vacate retaliatory eviction judgments against their tenants and to take steps to correct tenants’ credit histories. They are prohibited from managing residential rental properties in the future and must hire an independent property manager.   

It looks like they are getting out of the single family rental business anyway. The Donahues served nearly 100 tenants with 28-day notices to vacate or purchase their properties on Jan. 31, WISC reported.

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The City of Janesville, population 65,000, issued 46 citations with fines totaling $23,000 to the Donahues’ rental properties in one day last month, according to WCLO.

That local news station also dug up this wild anecdote:

In 2015 a Janesville man was convicted of devising a scheme to steal thousands of dollars worth of items from Home Depot, in order to return the items for gift cards. He would steal small, high-value items, and recruited heroin addicts to return the items for store credit.

At the time, Tyler Groeller told Janesville Police he would sell the gift cards to Rick Donahue for 50 cents on the dollar, and that Donahue may have used the cards to remodel entire rental properties.

At Groeller’s sentencing the prosecutor mentioned that the landlord was never charged, because Groeller had made conflicting statements to police.

— Rachel Stone

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