MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's a name you've likely heard before: Global Ministries Foundation.
In 2016, FOX13 did a number of investigations into Global Ministries Foundation after resident after resident reported they were living in deplorable conditions.
Then that summer, federal agents raided GMF Headquarters in Cordova, and other GMF properties across the country.
As a result of the Federal Investigation, GMF lost its federal HUD funding and announced it would sell all of its Memphis properties.
That was more than three years ago but guess what? FOX13 found out, GMF is back owning properties right here in Memphis.
FOX13's Winnie Wright has been investigating this story for almost a year.
After residents accused them of operating apartments the same way they did when they got in trouble with the feds back in 2016.
Several times a month photos are sent to the FOX13 Newsroom from apartment residents begging us for help, because they say they are forced to live in unthinkable conditions.
Then last spring, a building at the Arbors of Hickory Ridge caught fire.
That’s when we realized these 3 complexes all had something in common. They were all owned by Global Ministries Foundation.
"I've only got one mom, if something would have happened to her, that would have torn me apart."
That was Jessica Thomas last March, just moments after the apartment she was staying in burned to the ground.
She and her mother were visiting her brother at the Arbors of Hickory Ridge.
As we spoke that morning, Thomas’s mom, Kallee Glover said something that piqued my interest.
"We had discovered that the Arbors of Hickory Ridge were owned by Global Ministries, one of the worst slum lords in the area,” she told me.
Global Ministries Foundation is Dr. Richard Hamlet’s non-profit.
They’ve taken in millions from the federal government in the form of Section 8 money in exchange for providing housing for low income families here in Memphis and across the Southeast.
In 2016, after FOX13's investigations, GMF properties were raided by federal agents and stripped of their federal funding.
GMF quickly sold their properties and effectively shut down in the Bluff City.
"Would you have ever lived in an apartment complex had you known it was managed and owned by Global Ministries Foundation,” we asked Glover, inside her new townhouse.
"To be honest, Winnie I would have rather lived in a cardboard box under the freeway than to live like that,” she answered.
According to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Michael Dunavant, no charges were "sought or filed" after the federal investigation.
FOX13′s investigation revealed that shortly after, with the Feds off their back, GMF bought three Memphis apartment complexes under the names PAC Housing Group and Preservation of Affordability. The majority of them getting federal money as section 8 housing.
"I didn't have any working air. There was missing doors, roaches, they even left an old fridge in ther efull of roaches, gnats, and old food,” said Mikala Beach. She moved in to Bent Tree Apartments, a GMF property in August of 2019.
Coming from out-of-state, she said, she didn’t know the history when she moved in, and spent months working to break her lease.
"If I had known that so many bad things were going on, I would have avoided that apartment complex all together."
Throughout the course of this investigation, I have gathered every single code enforcement violation reported to the City of Memphis about Global Ministries Foundation’s new properties. These allegations, just the ones that were justified, include everything from heat and air out in the summer and winter, plumbing issues, to A/C units leaking, moldy carpet, and even more complaints about black mold.
So how could a place cut off by the federal government once again get federal money?
It’s simple, with no finding of criminal acts in that 2016 investigation there is nothing to stop them.
"Somebody on the federal level needs to step back and look back in to that,” Glover told us.
"I would say they didn't do anything differently from previously,” echoed Beach.
We called Global Ministries Foundation's founder, Dr. Richard Hamlet and left a message requesting an on-camera interview.
He called back almost immediately and was not happy, and accused FOX13 of lying and of orchestrating a hit job.
We recorded the call and offered to play his side of the story unedited for all to hear. He agreed, but you won’t hear that confrontation.
Moments later through his media consultant he said he changed his mind.
Paraphrasing, he said GMF sold Bent Tree in December of 2019, that this is the United States and residents can move if they don’t like it there.
Residents we spoke to said that would be great if it was true. Some said they spent months trying to get out of their leases and were fought at every turn.
Dr. Hamlet called that fake news and made some troubling statements, even threatened legal action.
FOX13′s Winnie Wright went to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen who has a history of combating conditions at GMF properties.
In response to what he called "deplorable living conditions" there, Congressman Cohen introduced the Housing Accountability Act of 2016 to hold property owners of low-income housing accountable for poor living conditions.
The bill died in committee. We spoke to him about our recent findings. He said he hopes to use existing resources to take action.
"We think this new business, which is apparently just another Global Ministries Business needs to be brought to the attention of HUD, so they can give special oversight of those properties since there’s already been a history of those people not doing proper management of the properties for the benefit of the tenants,” the Congressman told FOX13.
Residents have a simpler solution.
"People who are Christian they're supposed to love thy neighbor,” offered Mikala Beach. "They're not doing that. They're getting their money and that's it."
Global Ministries Foundation Founder and President, Dr. Richard Hamlet would not agree to interview with us on-camera, but someone from his organization emailed us a statement.
As I stated in several emails to you, the facts are as follows:
The person you refer to as a resident or previous resident of the Arbors of Hickory Ridge is not a leaseholder nor has ever been a lease holder. Someone occupying a unit without the said permission of the Community/Property Manager is doing so illegally. Every person who applies for occupancy must go through a thorough background investigation including a criminal history report. An individual who is living in the community and has not met these requirements is not considered a resident therefore has no validity. It is common that unauthorized occupants be evicted if found to be living in a unit.
Bent Tree has sold and while we no longer own that community, the resident you have spoken with was allowed to break her lease as she was dissatisfied. In addition, while I cannot share personal information regarding her unique situation many issues were addressed leading up to that decision.
It is always our intention to provide a living experience in which all residents feel part of a community with a purpose. Unfortunately, it is never in the interest of news media to report on the positive things we do on an ongoing basis. We, as a company provide services of tutoring, clothes closets, food pantries and dental care to name a few and at no cost to anyone living in our communities.
Yesterday when Dr. Hamlet returned your call, he did not know the call was being recorded nor give consent for the call to be recorded. Obviously his emotions were running high as he felt attacked unjustly by your voicemail. I apologize if you felt as though the conversation was intense. I however am happy to address your concerns via telephone or email for the record of your reporting.— Spokesperson for Global Ministries Foundation
It is worth noting, we shared our newest findings with HUD and asked them how residents that live in federally-funded properties can report bad living conditions. Not just there but in any federally funded housing if they’re living in unsafe conditions.
We have not heard back on that or heard if they plan to launch a new investigation. We will keep you posted.