Richland man charged with stealing $80,000 in rental assistance

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Bob Brawdy

Tri-City Herald

A 71-year-old Richland man is accused of pocketing nearly $80,000 in coronavirus relief money by claiming he was the manager of a distressed rental property.

Ronald D. Weis received four checks in 2021 under the Treasury Rent Assistance Program, or T-RAP.

The checks were issued by the Benton-Franklin Counties Department of Social Services in Kennewick.

Court documents show the department received requests from a person who said he was behind on rent and listed Weis as the tenant’s property manager.

Weis received $78,573 in total between August 31 and December 19.

The documents do not specify how many months the tenant claims to be in arrears with rent.

Weis was questioned by investigators about the money earlier this month and admitted he was not a property manager, according to court documents. He also admitted to cashing the checks, documents show.

He is charged in Benton County Superior Court with first-degree larceny.

This includes the aggravating circumstance allegation that the crime resulted in substantial loss beyond what is typical for a robbery, and that it involved a high degree of sophistication or planning.

Weis has been held in Benton County Jail since January 13. Bail is set at $7,500, with a trial scheduled for March 14.

$2.8 million in Benton-Franklin

The T-RAP program is the federal and Washington state governments’ response to the need for rental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the state Department of Commerce’s website.

It aims to prevent evictions by helping selected and eligible tenants cover their past, current and future rent.

Recipients can get up to 12 months of assistance, with an additional three months if needed, depending on program guidelines.

Commerce Department data released online shows that Benton-Franklin counties spent $2.8 million in financial assistance from April to November 2021. The data indicates that 565 households received the money, although a number of them may be repeat recipients.

Most of the aid was delivered in October with $789,029 to 169 households.

Statewide, 25,069 households received $168 million in rental assistance, according to department data.

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Kristin M. Kraemer covers the justice system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She was a journalist for over 20 years in Washington and California.

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