How a millionaire slumlord got sweetheart government deals to maintain armed forces housing and then left them to rot

John Picerne is a hereditary one-percenter whose contribution to his family legacy of "real estate development" was to spend millions on lobbying, which landed him millions more in government loans earmarked for taking over the maintenance of 26,000 units of on-base military housing in 13 locations, with the repayment of the loans coming straight out of enlisted personnel's paychecks.

Despite all that public largesse, Picerne's company, Corvias Group, did not live up to its promises: instead, it let the houses to rot, filling up with vermin and toxic mold, in buildings so ramshackle that soldiers' children have had their bedroom ceilings collapse on them while they slept. Critical infrastructure — like pedestrian overpasses to help kids cross busy roads safely — were never built.

All along, Corvias's profits soared, with Picerne's payday heading toward the billion-dollar mark — even as they scaled back maintenance. Meanwhile Picerne has bought a 100-acre Irish estate with two mansions, a Palm Beach mansion, a six-bedroom neo-Georgian in Providence, a second Rhode Island home at the beach, and a luxury yacht, and had them redecorated by the Kardashian's celebrity designer, whose flourishes include exotic taxidermy (an alligator wrestling with a snake), custom marble black-and-white floors, and other tasteful elements for the discerning looter capitalist.

Picerne's fixer is Senator Jack Reed [D-RI], who is now the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Thousands of military families have signed petitions begging to have their homes brought up to a decent, livable standard — meanwhile, some have become disabled by the poor air quality and other hazards in their Corvias homes.

Reuters has deeply reported Picerne/Corvias's negligence, drawing on primary source documents from the US government.

Corvias had promised Wade a home equipped for her wheelchair, but there was no ramp or bathroom handrails when she moved in, leaving her dependent on her husband, an Army sergeant. "It was pretty degrading," Wade said.

It took Corvias four months to install the fixtures, she said. Wade's husband and two small children soon developed breathing problems, which their doctors attributed to mold. The doctors submitted three reports to Corvias, recommending it clean the air ducts and replace the carpet. Corvias let months go by before cleaning the ducts and declined to replace the carpet, according to notes a maintenance employee marked on Wade's work request.

Wade's husband now requires inhalers and wears a breathing device to assist him when he sleeps, his medical records show. He no longer meets Army fitness requirements, and is in the process of obtaining a medical discharge. Last month, an Army board recommended him for disability, citing his recent asthma, Army records reviewed by Reuters show.

Corvias and the Army declined to comment about the petition and other tenant complaints.

As U.S. soldiers battle landlord, confidential records shine light on his lucrative business
[Joshua Schneyer and Andrea Januta/Reuters]