Walter Ray Pelfrey, a 78-year-old Choctaw, Okla., resident who owns self-storage and residential properties in the Oklahoma City metro area, has agreed to pay a total of $800,000 to seven women who accused him of sexual harassment. The plaintiffs, all African-Americans who lived in Pelfrey’s buildings, filed two separate civil lawsuits against him in federal court. Pelfrey, who is white, denied the allegations but said he agreed to settle after being pressured by his wife, according to the source.
Pelfrey, who owns more than 100 properties, was accused of routinely targeting black women by asking them for sex in lieu of rent. He allegedly evicted some who refused his advances, the source reported. In all, more than 40 women have come forward with accounts of sexual misconduct, according to court documents. A state judge ordered him in 2015 to stop such discriminatory practices.
"He asked me when I was going to give him some of this brown sugar," a former tenant said in a deposition. "He said he didn't want my money, he wanted me." A former property manager said she heard Pelfrey say to tenants several times per week, “If you don’t have the money to pay, you can always come back here and get up on this poker table,” according to court documents.
The Metropolitan Fair Housing Council of Oklahoma Inc., a nonprofit group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight women in 2015. Two other women filed a similar but separate suit the same year. Seven of them will split the settlement money equally, according to the source, though it’s unclear why the other three women are excluded, or if they voluntarily opted out of the settlement to continue legal proceedings.
A jury trial had been set for January.
Pelfrey still faces charges in a separate criminal case in which he’s accused of unlawfully disposing the dead body of a 13-year-old girl in a Spencer, Okla., landfill. The girl’s mother had rented a unit at Scott Street Mini Storage, a facility Pelfrey owns in Del City, Okla. He allegedly told an employee to put the trunk containing the teenager’s body into a dumpster and arranged transportation of the dumpster to the landfill. Pelfrey has pleaded not guilty.