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Third Ward Redevelopment: $8.5M Misuse Leads to Arrests

Midtown Redevelopment Authority Corruption: $8.5M Misused

June 24, 20243 min read

Midtown Redevelopment Authority Corruption: $8.5M Misused

On October 31, 2023, construction was underway on a previously-owned Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) lot in Houston’s Third Ward. This area has been at the center of controversy following the recent arrests of a former MRA staffer and two contractors on charges of public corruption.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced the arrests of Todd Edwards, a former real estate manager at MRA, and contractors Veronica Ugorgi and Kenneth Jones. The trio faces charges related to the misuse of approximately $8.5 million in public funds. Edwards, accused of exploiting his oversight of MRA landscaping funds for personal gain, allegedly collaborated with Ugorgi and Jones in this scheme.

District Attorney Kim Ogg addressed the media, emphasizing the gravity of the charges. “Mr. Edwards and his co-defendants’ scheme to steal and misuse this money has resulted in first-degree felony charges against each of them,” she stated. “These charges carry potential life sentences. Unfortunately, our tax dollars meant to improve the lives of Houstonians were spent on flashy cars, nice houses, super living, trips, and pornography.”

For years, Third Ward residents voiced concerns about the MRA’s failure to deliver on promises of affordable housing. Empty lots, overtaken by vegetation despite substantial landscaping contracts, became symbols of mismanagement. Accusations against Edwards culminated in an investigation by Houston’s Office of Inspector General. The investigation confirmed that Edwards had misused his position to benefit himself and Cortez Landscaping, a contractor.

Edwards was dismissed from his position on May 31, 2023, due to allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a contractor. Following his termination, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office launched a formal investigation in November 2023.

The MRA, in response to the charges, declared that the alleged actions are “entirely contrary to the values and principles under which the MRA operates.” They assured the public that comprehensive measures have been implemented to enhance financial and procurement controls.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire expressed zero tolerance for such criminal activities. “My office, the inspector general’s office, all our department heads have been put on notice that we won’t tolerate it,” he stated. He also mentioned plans to review all Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs) across Houston.

Community members Ed Pettitt and Brian Van Tubergen played crucial roles in bringing these issues to light. Their persistent efforts, including a formal complaint filed with the Office of Inspector General in 2022, were instrumental in uncovering the corruption.

“It felt like we were arguing at a brick wall this entire previous administration because no one was willing to hold the Midtown Redevelopment Authority accountable,” Pettitt remarked. He expressed gratitude to Mayor Whitmire and Kim Ogg for pursuing the investigation and securing indictments.

At the press conference, Ogg praised Pettitt and Van Tubergen for their relentless pursuit of justice, referring to them as a “Batman and Robin team.” Pettitt concluded, “I think the Midtown issue is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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Midtown Redevelopment Authoritypublic corruptionHarris County District Attorney’s OfficeTodd Edwardsmisuse of public fundsThird Ward neighborhoodaffordable housinglandscaping contractsfinancial controlsTax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs)
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Bill Rapp - Commercial & Residential Mortgage Broker

Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or a business owner with ambitious plans, securing the right financing is crucial. At Medallion Funds, we take the guesswork out of mortgages, offering a comprehensive suite of residential and commercial loan options to fit your unique needs. Looking for Your Dream Home? We understand the excitement and challenges of navigating the residential real estate market. Our experienced mortgage brokers will guide you through every step, from pre-qualification to closing. We offer a variety of loan programs to suit your financial situation, including: • Fixed-rate mortgages: Offering stability with predictable monthly payments. • Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs): Providing competitive rates for a set period. • FHA loans: Making homeownership accessible with lower down payments. • VA loans: Rewarding veterans with attractive rates and flexible terms. Investing in Your Business Future? Growth often requires capital, and we can help you unlock the potential of your commercial property. Our brokers specialize in a wide range of commercial loan options, including: • Purchase loans: Financing the acquisition of new buildings or land. • Construction loans: Facilitating the development of your project. • Refinance loans: Restructuring your existing mortgage for better terms. • SBA loans: Providing access to government-backed financing for qualified businesses. The Medallion Funds Difference: We go beyond simply finding a loan. We take the time to understand your goals and develop a personalized strategy. Here's what sets us apart: • Expertise: Our brokers have a deep understanding of both residential and commercial lending. • Competitive Rates: We leverage our strong lender relationships to secure the best possible terms. • Streamlined Process: We handle the paperwork, keeping you informed every step of the way. • Exceptional Service: We're committed to providing you with a positive and stress-free experience. Ready to Take the First Step? Contact Medallion Funds today for a free consultation. Let's discuss your financing needs and help you achieve your dreams!

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This is not an offer to enter into an agreement. Not all customers will qualify. Information, rates and programs are subject to change without notice. All products are subject to credit and property approval. Other restrictions and limitations may apply

Corporate | NMLS ID NMLS # 1825831

Corporate Address : 11920 Southern Highlands Parkway, Suite 302, Las Vegas, NV 89141 https://medallionfunds.com/bill-rapp/