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Landlord accused of trying to bribe housing official with $2 bills expected to plead guilty

July 14, 2018

An Omaha landlord accused of trying to bribe a public housing official with stacks of $2 bills is expected to plead guilty in federal court next week.

Lafi Jafari is scheduled to appear Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Omaha for “a hearing on his anticipated plea of guilty,” according to a court filing. The order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Bazis says that the court had been advised that Jafari had requested permission to plead guilty.

Jafari has for years been one of the largest private providers of federally subsidized Section 8 rental housing in Omaha. From 2012 to 2014, Jafari received federal rent payments of about $2.1 million. When he was indicted in 2016, he owned 165 rental properties that provided a federally subsidized place to live for low-income Omahans.

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development investigation led to indictments against Jafari and his secretary, MaryLou Gruttemeyer, on six counts each of paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Jafari also was indicted on one count of making false statements to HUD agents.

The notice of a plea hearing, filed Wednesday, did not indicate the specific charges to which Jafari is expected to plead guilty.

The government alleges that Jafari and Gruttemeyer paid $2,098 to an Omaha Housing Authority employee over three years. The OHA employee reported the alleged payments to HUD and cooperated with the investigation.

A call on Thursday to the office of Jafari’s company, MM&L International, was not immediately returned. His attorney, Jerry Hug, could not be reached for comment. Gruttemeyer’s attorney, Brent Bloom, declined to comment. From court records, it appears she is still awaiting trial.

Hug and Bloom had argued that investigators’ actions constituted “outrageous government conduct,” a legal standard. That defense relies in part on an undisputed fact: Federal investigators twice directed the OHA employee to ask Gruttemeyer for money in exchange for performing favors for the rental company. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp has contended that the employee made the requests after receiving unsolicited money on three occasions.

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