Tri-Cities ‘property manager’ stole $80,000 in COVID rent relief, prosecutors say

·2 min read
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 delinquent rental property.

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

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

Court documents show the department received applications from a person who said they were behind on rent, and listed Weis as the tenant’s property manager.

Weis received $78,573 total between Aug. 31 and Dec. 19.

Documents do not state for how many months the tenant claimed to be behind in rent.

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

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

It includes the aggravating circumstance allegation that the crime involved a substantial loss greater than is typical for theft, and that it involved a high degree of sophistication or planning.

Weis has been in custody in the Benton County jail since Jan. 13. Bail is set at $7,500, with a trial scheduled March 14.

$2.8M 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 website.

It is intended to prevent evictions by helping screened 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, according to the program’s guidelines.

Department of Commerce data posted online shows that Benton-Franklin counties spent $2.8 million in financial assistance from April through November 2021. Data says 565 households were served with that money, though a number of those could be repeat recipients.

The biggest chunk of assistance was issued in October with $789,029 going to 169 households.

Across the state, 25,069 households have been served with $168 million in rent assistance, according to the department data.

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