RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Sex offenders staying at area hotels on your dime! The state helps house them, temporarily, after they are released from prison, but how many of your tax dollars are being spent on them? We tried to get those motel receipts when we first broke the story in 2009. NBC12 investigates why the state has still not released the information.
I made another freedom of information request in April asking the amount the Department of Corrections (D.O.C.) paid the 'Snow White' motel and three others over the last three months. D.O.C. opted for an extension, which it can by law, rather than give me the dollar amount. So, I asked homeless offenders what the state pays to house them.
Parolee Hong Chourb is apparently long term. I met him in 2009. Back then, he said he had 45 days rent free And he would have to find his own place.
Diane Walker: "Are you still with DOC?' Are they still paying your rent?" (Door slams) Come talk to us for a minute."
Two years, 6 months later, the registered violent sex offender is still on taxpayers' dime at the Snow White Motel.
Diane Walker: "We talked a year or so ago. I'm Diane Walker with Channel 12."
Harry Patal: "I know that."
With hands up, Motel Owner Harry Patel adamantly declined answering money questions on camera. In 2009, Patel told me off camera, he got $180 a week per parolee.
Harry Patal: "Turn it off."
Diane Walker: "You want us to turn it off."
This time he only said parolees work hard and everybody is safer when they're not homeless.
Diane Walker: "Are you Dustin?"
Parolee Dustin Herring: "Yes I am."
Diane Walker: "I got a couple questions for you. Is DOC paying for you to stay here?"
Dustin Herring: "Yes ma'am."
How much over the last three years? Two years? Six months? How much since February?
D.O.C. responded many ways to my many requests:
- No filming of receipts or inspecting documentation.
- Total amounts not available, only individual transactions.
- Receipts are mixed with other charges. The state would select what's suitable for release, and charge us $1,700.
- $200, if I drop the FOIA request and allow D.O.C. to examine records and create new paperwork.
Typically the media doesn't pay for such records.
Diane Walker: "How much do you think they're spending to stay here?"
Dustin Herring: "Probably about $600 a month."
Using the motel owner's $180 a week per parolee, that's $720 a month, times that by 30 and it's $21,600 for a two year, six month stay. That's how long the motel has been Hong Chourb's home.
"It's actually messed up in my opinion. I used to be a hard worker. I used to get mad because tax money would go to places," said Herring. "Even though it's in my benefit, it's still kind of messed up."
Of 69 registered sex offenders in zip code 23237, 10 including Dustin Herring live at the Chesterfield motel at taxpayers' expense. That adds up to $7,200 a month, $86,400 a year.
Diane Walker: "Where would you be if DOC didn't put you here?"
Dustin Herring: "Shelter."
Dustin says parolees pay half the rent when they find work. D.O.C. declined my interview request, but said earlier -- "it has a public safety responsibility to arrange temporary housing, for indigent offenders using emergency funds, for those 'infrequent' occasions."
Meantime, the extension runs out May 17. I will report what the state says it pays, if I get a dollar amount.