Federal authorities began an investigation yesterday into the allegations that three leaders of Change Inc. attempted to extract a payment of $100,000 and other inducements from a Washington landlord in exchange for removing tenants from two of his apartment buildings, according to the landlord's lawyer.
The U.S. attorney's office reportedly is examining federal statutes, including several dealing with extortion, fraud and threats, to determine what laws, if any, were broken.
Patrick J. Moran, the lawyer representing landlord Nick Rangoussis, confirmed Rangoussis is scheduled to meet with an FBI agent and an assistant U.S. attorney later in the week.
Authorities are known to be interested in listening to tape-recordings Rangoussis made of conversations between himself and the president of Change, Robert L. King. An account of the records as well as interviews with Rangoussis reported Sunday in The Washington Post indicated that King and two of his subordinates offered to sell out the tenants at 1436 and 1438 Meridian Pl. NW, in exchange for various financial inducements.
Change is a federally funded neighborhood organization which operates in the 14th Street corridor. It purportedly has been working on behalf of the tenants in the face of Rangoussis' efforts to remove them from the rundown buildings so that he could convert them to condominiums that would be valued at $6 millin when sold.
Kind and his colleagues, Change executive director Archie D. Williams and deputy director Phaion C. Hyche II, all initially denied Rangoussis' allegations.
Last Saturday, however, Hyche's attorney said that discussions between Rangoussis and Change officials had taken place, but that it was the landlord who made the offers.