Saturday, April 01, 2017

Pennsylvania Supremes Nix "Pathological Gambling Addiction" Defense, Place Lawyer On Emergency Temporary Suspension Pending Possible Disbarment For Allegedly Siphoning Almost $100K In Trust Account Cash Belonging To Five Clients

In Washington County, Pennsylvania, the Observer-Reporter reports:
  • A state Supreme Court panel Wednesday [March 15] ordered that Cecil attorney and former state representative Jesse White be placed on emergency temporary suspension over allegations he breached rules of conduct, misappropriating nearly $100,000 in money clients had entrusted to him.

    The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court said White’s “continued practice of law is causing immediate and substantial public or private harm because of his misappropriation of entrusted client funds and other egregious conduct in manifest violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

    The disciplinary board said White’s suspension will take effect April 14. Rachel Nusinov, an administrative assistant with the board, said its Office of Disciplinary Counsel will file a petition to have White disciplined. It is also possible White and the office could reach an agreement for “discipline on consent,” she said.

    A petition from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel states five clients entrusted White with a total of $118,298 between December 2015 and late November of last year. White deposited those funds into a professional trust account in his name. As of Dec. 30, the account was drawn down to $12,954 because of payments “unrelated to his entrustments,” the petition said.

    The office alleged White misappropriated the remaining $105,344. However, once the office adjusted its tally of the funds entrusted to White and accounted for additional funds in the trust, it put the amount of the deficiency at $96,446 as of Jan. 18.(1)

    White’s attorney, Amy Coco, wrote in a filing seeking to block the temporary suspension that her client had “sought help for a pathological gambling addiction” and placed himself on a list for exclusion from state casinos.

    State authorities took the step of asking the court for White’s emergency suspension when he refused to tender his voluntary resignation from the state bar, according to the state’s filing.
For more, see Attorney, former legislator White faces suspension.
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(1) The Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients (at least partially, if not fully) who have suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pennsylvania attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Criminal Charges Catch Up To Bar-Booted Ex-Lawyer; Faces Grand Theft Charges For Allegedly Stiffing Client Out Of Portion Of Lawsuit Settlement Proceeds

In Gainesville, Florida, The Gainesville Sun reports:
  • A Gainesville attorney whose law license was revoked was arrested Thursday [March 9] after authorities say she mishandled a client's money during a 2015 lawsuit.

    Elizabeth Karen Touchton, 45, was charged with grand theft by the State Attorney's Office. The Gainesville Police Department in November had filed a sworn complaint against Touchton in the case.

    The charge stems from her representation of Mavis Jean Gold-Fishler in a probate lawsuit on February 7, 2015. Touchton's contract gave her the rights to $2,000 in up-front fees, plus 33.3 percent of any winnings from the suit.

    The suit was settled in July 2015 for $20,000, which was deposited into a trust account Touchton controlled on August 8, 2015. According to the complaint, Touchton transferred $13,193 of the settlement into her business checking account over the next two months. She also reportedly put $807 into her mortgage account in September 2015.

    Touchton then sent the Fishler family a check for $6,000, which was marked "6000 of 10k settlement funds." In total, Touchton only paid the family $8,000 of the money she owed them, the report states.

    The Fishlers confronted her about why they had not received the full $13,334.

    According to records from the Florida Supreme Court, Touchton voluntarily gave up her license to practice law in September 2016, in part because of a Florida Bar investigation of her handling of the Fishler case. The court's ruling would allow Touchton to seek readmission to the Florida Bar in 2021, although she has said previously that she does not plan to do so.

    "I have no intention of ever going back into law. I hated it. It's an awful profession and the Florida Bar is an awful organization," Touchton told The Sun in January.
Source: Police say former lawyer withheld client’s money.
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(1) In Florida, the Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help compensate persons who have suffered a loss of money or property due to misappropriation or embezzlement by an attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Disbarred Over A Year Ago, Ex-Lawyer Finally Gets Visit From Criminal Authorities, Nailing Her With Charges For Allegedly Stealing Nearly $97K From Four Ex-Clients

In Chester County, Pennsylvania, the Daily Local reports:
  • A disbarred attorney is facing multiple counts of theft and forgery for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from four of her former clients, including the estates of two county residents, by pocketing money for doing little or no work on their legal matters, according to court documents.

    The county District Attorney’s Office in February filed criminal charges against Kristi Ann Fredericks of Downingtown for the thefts that amount to almost $97,000.(1) She was arraigned by Magisterial District Justice Grover Koon of Valley and released on an unsecured bail of $100,000. A preliminary hearing in the case has been set before Koon for April 24.

    Fredericks, also known by her married name of Kristi Ann McQuillan, had offices in Malvern, King of Prussia, Coatesville, and Downingtown. She was disbarred by consent by the state Supreme Court in December 2015 after an investigation of various complaints against her by the court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

    In a 29-page criminal complaint authored by Chester County Detective Kristin C. Lund and approved by Chief Deputy District Attorney Ronald Yen, Fredericks is accused of writing large checks to herself without permission from two estates that she had been hired to handle and guide through the Orphans Court process.

    The complaint also alleges that Fredericks took $11,000 in fees from two other clients to handle various legal matters, including a land subdivision and a pension matter. Although she claimed to have worked on those cases at an hourly rate of as much as $325 and provided work sheets showing what she had reputed to have done for the clients, Lund found that Fredericks did little or no work at all on the case. For one client, she took $5,000 for a case she should have billed only $167.50 for, the complaint states.

    Lund wrote that Fredericks “unlawfully took money from clients; obtained monies from clients by making material representations or by deception; obtained from clients retainers but, instead of holding the retainers in escrow or in trust, deposited them into her own business or personal accounts, forged and uttered a forged fee agreement; and attempted to steal client money by submitting a false and fraudulent bill.

    Fredericks, 41, had been practicing law in Pennsylvania since 2006, and also practiced in New Jersey. She is charged with six counts of felony theft by unlawful taking, four counts of failure to make required disposition of funds, three counts of theft by deception, five counts of receiving stolen property, 13 counts of forgery, and two counts each of tampering with records and unsworn falsification.
For more, see Detective: Attorney stole money from clients.
------------------------
(1) The Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security was established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1982 to reimburse clients (at least partially, if not fully) who have suffered a loss as a result of a misappropriation of funds by their Pennsylvania attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

As Victims Continue Coming Forward, Theft Indictments Begin Piling Up Against Aging Disbarred Lawyer Who Got Bar Boot For Allegedly Pilfering Over $950K From Dead Clients & Their Heirs

In Bristol, Tennessee, the Bristol Herald Courier reports:
  • A disbarred Bristol, Tennessee, attorney who was ordered last month to pay nearly $1 million in restitution to multiple estates and trusts has been indicted again on theft charges.

    Ongoing case work by special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in additional indictments for Don W. Cooper, 71, who is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from estates for which he served as executor.

    At the request of Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, the TBI began investigating Cooper in November 2015. According to the TBI, agents learned that between August 2011 and November 2013, Cooper stole funds in excess of $60,000 from an estate he was hired to manage.

    Last week, a Sullivan County grand jury returned indictments charging Cooper with six counts of theft over $10,000 and one count of theft over $60,000. Cooper turned himself in Wednesday [March 8] and was booked into the Sullivan County jail. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond.

    Indictments filed last week state Cooper “did unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly obtain property” of an estate and the beneficiaries of family trusts.

    Cooper was previously indicted in April 2016 on one count of theft over $250,000 and again in July 2016 on one count of theft over $10,000. Those charges involve the theft of funds from other estates for which he served as executor, according to indictments.
    ***
    Effective Feb. 23, the board disbarred Cooper, who was first licensed in 1970, and ordered him to pay $952,759.37 to the estates.(1)
For the story, see Former Bristol, Tenn. attorney indicted on theft charges turns himself in to police.
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(1) The Tennessee Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection was established to reimburse claimants for losses caused by dishonest conduct committed by lawyers duly licensed to practice in the state.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Another Slippery Lawyer Fails In Attempt To Dodge Disbarment By Resigning From State Bar In Advance Of Court Boot; Blames Ex-Wife For Screwing Up His Trust Account, Stiffing Clients Out Of Lawsuit $ettlement Money

In San Jose, California, The Mercury News reports:
  • After a failed attempt to resign from the state bar last year, San Jose Councilman and attorney Tam Nguyen was disbarred this month — a punishment for not paying his clients their settlement.

    “I’m taking responsibility and I accept the punishment and consequences,” Nguyen told IA on Monday. “My resignation was not approved by the Supreme Court. The whole thing was my fault.”

    Nguyen, who’s been an attorney since 1992, last year faced eight charges for failing to pay his clients a $5,078 insurance settlement from a personal injury case. The court documents say Nguyen also failed to pay his clients’ medical provider $2,234 from another insurance settlement.(1)

    Nguyen said it was his ex-wife’s job to make the payments — but she dropped the ball because of the divorce. He said the money was in his trust fund and it was a simple misunderstanding. “She did not have the time to pay it,” he said.

    But Nguyen also faced similar charges in 2004 when he wrote checks to clients from an account with insufficient funds. In that case, he was suspended from the State Bar of California for 45 days and placed on a 5-year probation.
Source: San Jose city councilman is disbarred after failing to pay clients.
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(1) The California State Bar's Client Security Fund is a discretionary fund that can reimburse clients who have lost money or property due to theft or dishonesty by a California lawyer. It is a State Bar program funded entirely by California lawyers. The amount the fund may reimburse for theft committed by a California lawyer depends on when the loss occurred. A maximum of $50,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred before January 1, 2009. A maximum of $100,000 is reimbursable if the loss occurred on or after January 1, 2009.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Another NYC Landlord Faces Lawsuit Allegations Of Intentionally Creating Toxic Environment While Renovating Aging Building To Constructively Boot Rent-Regulated Tenants Out Of Their Homes

In the Hell's Kitchen section of New York City, DNAinfo (NYC) reports:
  • A landlord renovating a Ninth Avenue building exposed tenants to asbestos, lead and other “poisonous" substances in order to force them out of their homes — while telling city officials the property was vacant, a new lawsuit charges.

    The owner of the building at 859 Ninth Ave., at the corner of West 56th Street, started renovating the property around December 2014, says the suit filed by a rent-stabilized tenant in Manhattan Supreme Court on March 2.

    Since then, tenant Shalom Mor and other residents have been living in “a constant cloud of toxic smoke and dust contaminated with asbestos, lead, crystalline, silicates, gypsum and other poisonous and carcinogenic substances,” his suit says.

    The conditions in the building are “designed to constructively and actually evict [Mor] and other tenants from their home, in violation of basic statutory and common law rights,” it adds.

    In his suit, Mor claims permit applications the owner filed with the city’s Department of Buildings falsely stated the property wasn’t occupied and that the project wouldn’t involve asbestos. Renovations also moved forward without a tenant-safety plan in place, it says.
    ***
    According to the lawsuit, Mor and a group of residents hired an environmental consulting company In October 2015 that found the dust kicked up by renovations contained “illegal and harmful levels” of lead, asbestos debris and crystalline silica — all of which have been linked to cancer and other medical ailments.

    Dust permeating Mor’s apartment ruined his books, plants, artwork and other belongings, the claim says.

    The building's residents have also dealt with flooding, mold and mildew, garbage accumulating in the hallways, exposed wires that create a "constant fire hazard" and rodent infestations, as well as interruptions in heat, electricity and water, the suit says.

Longtime Rent-Controlled Tenants In 16-Story, 270 Unit NYC Building Accuse Landlord Of Attempting Sinister Form Of 'Self-Help' Eviction: Using Poisonous Mix Of Pesticide & Deodorizer To Drive Them From Their Homes

In New York City, the New York Post reports:
  • Residents of an Upper West Side building say their landlords treat them like roaches and rats by trying to chase them from their apartments with pesticide.

    Late at night, employees at Dexter House — a single-room-occupancy building at 345 W. 86th St. just off Riverside Drive — allegedly walk the building’s winding hallways spreading a poisonous mix of pesticide and deodorizer near the apartments of longtime rent-controlled tenants.

    “I believe they want to kill me. I have a bad breathing problem,” nonagenarian Helen Ball complained last year to the state division of Homes and Community Renewal.

    “I strangle if I lie on my back,” said Ball’s handwritten complaint. “It’s difficult to eat or drink . . . I always liked the management . . . I don’t know why they now want to kill me.”

    Ball eventually moved.

    Another tenant, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Post she caught a man spraying under her door at 2 a.m. and suffered rashes and breathing problems presumably from the mystery chemicals.

    “I started to get weird odors,” she said. “I started to get severe headaches. I started to get nauseous.” After seeing several doctors, she found an ear, nose and throat specialist. “He said it was something I was inhaling,” the woman said.

    The tenants’ claims gained credence when a state Department of Environmental Conservation inspector found pesticides stored in the building during visits in September and November.

    The inspector says Dexter House employees are not certified to use the chemicals and did not keep daily records of their use — in violation of state law.

    Legal Aid Society lawyers, who have seen landlords use all kinds of underhanded strategies to rid their buildings of tenants they dislike, are astonished by the allegations. Adan Soltren, who is trying to organize Dexter House tenants for a lawsuit, said if building residents’ claims are true, they are among “the more sinister kinds of tactics I’ve heard of.”

    For years Dexter House residents have accused lead landlord Jay Wartski of seeking to get rid of them so their rooms can be put to more lucrative use.

    They live cheaply in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, on the Upper West Side near Riverside Park. A five-story single-family town house next door to Dexter House was put on the market in 2013 with an asking price of $50 million.

    Julie Hanlon, a Dexter House tenant for 25 years who brought the pesticide allegations to officials, pays $308 per month in rent.

    Wartski has a long history as a landlord feared by the city’s poor. In the mid-1980s he reportedly spent 30 days at Rikers ­Island for refusing to repair hazardous conditions at an SRO he owned on Chambers Street in Tribeca.

    Wartski, his brother, Allen, and his father, Jerry, were labeled by the Village Voice in 1984 as the city’s “most heartless” SRO landlords. Tenant organizers accused Wartski of moving drug dealers and “goons” into one of the family’s buildings, which included 25 rooms used by prostitutes.

    Dexter House’s manager, Robert Goicochea, said the pesticides found by the state inspector were used to provide good service to tenants.

    “Whenever a tenant would ask to have his room sprayed, my ­super would go upstairs and spray in the room with any product he got in the hardware store,” Goicochea said.

    The state inspector found a spray can of Gentrol, a pesticide used to combat bedbugs and cockroaches, which under state law building workers may not use or possess. Gentrol’s active ingredient is a chemical called hydroprene. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, little is known about its effect on humans.

    The inspector also found three other containers of pesticides advertised as capable of killing bedbugs. They were legal for the building to possess, but not legal for employees to use, a state official said.

    Goicochea acknowledged the issues raised by the state inspector: “He notified us we shouldn’t be spraying. He said, ‘OK, you guys have to go and get ­certified.’ ”

    Wartski’s lawyer, Jeffrey Seid­en, said there is “no validity” to claims that building workers are trying to chase people from the building with pesticides.

    “There has been no attempt to evict anybody through the use of illegal chemicals,” Seiden said.

    But Hanlon says some tenants of the 16-story, 270-unit building stuff paper under their doors nightly to keep fumes from seeping in.

    What they did to us is a horror show,” she said.

Gas Odors, Elevated Carbon Monoxide Levels Lead To Arrest Of Three Landlords Among Six Bagged In Connection With Alleged Illegal Work Done On Gas-Fired Furnaces At Rental Properties

In Nashua, New Hampshire, The Lowell Sun reports:
  • Six people connected to three rental properties have been charged in connection with illegal work performed on gas furnaces.

    In a press release, police said Nashua Fire Rescue responded to complaints of gas odors at the rental properties and found elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Another investigation was the result of a tenant complaint.

    Three men are charged with allowing an unlicensed person to work on gas-fired furnaces:

    * Garry Gauthier, 52, of Gauthier Realty, located at 16 Amherst St,, Nashua, was arrested following an inspection of a property he owns at 128 East Hollis St.

    * Xu Bin Zheng, 38, of 163 Water St., Wakefield, Mass., was arrested following an inspection of a property he owns at 54 Whitney St.

    * Raymond Roberts, age 59, of 12 Bell St., Nashua was arrest for Fuel Gas Fitters, a class A misdemeanor, following an inspection of a property he managed for Linbar Properties at 78 Ledge St.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Another Homeowner Gets Screwed By Bankster & Trashout Contractor Prematurely Changing Locks On Home In Foreclosure; Victim's Lawsuit Demands That Wells Fargo Ante Up For Ransacking, Theft Of Inherited $50K Coin Collection, Other Personal Items

In Northampton County, Pennsylvania, The Morning Call reports:
  • The end of John Barber's unpleasant foreclosure process seemed to be in sight.

    Barber had arranged to sell his Easton home through a short sale, which occurs when a bank approves a sale for less than the mortgage balance.

    He started packing in anticipation of moving out but said some treasured items, including a coin collection and an antique firearm, were stolen when the bank took the premature step of sending a company to secure the home while he still was living there.

    Barber notified police and sued Wells Fargo. The lawsuit alleges he "discovered that his home had been broken into, the locks changed, the premises ransacked, and a large quantity of personal property belonging to him was missing."

    The case is pending in Northampton County court, with a settlement conference scheduled for later this month, according to his attorney, Robert Glazer of Easton.
    ***
    Barber is not suing the companies involved with securing his property. The only defendant in his lawsuit is Wells Fargo, which the suit alleges failed to "properly supervise and monitor" the contractor's and subcontractor's activities.

    Easton police investigated Barber's complaint and closed the case without filing charges because leads were exhausted, according to a report provided to me by Glazer.
    ***
    There often is little that a homeowner can do to prevent a property preservation contractor's visit. Banks and mortgage servicers typically point to clauses contained in most mortgages allowing them to act if a homeowner intentionally damages a property or allows it to deteriorate.

    "These clauses are typically broad and far-reaching," Christopher K. Odinet, of Southern University Law Center, wrote in an article published last year in the University of Cincinnati Law Review.(1)

    Whether a property is deteriorating or at risk of deteriorating often is a point of contention. Just because a home is in foreclosure doesn't mean it isn't being kept up.

    The University of Cincinnati Law Review article cited several incidents similar to what Barber alleges. It noted that more than 250 lawsuits had been filed, with varying results. Many contractors hire subcontractors, which can complicate getting to the bottom of what occurred.
    ***
    "My house had been ransacked, was rifled through," he told me. "They'd been through everything, from my drawers to my closets. Everything."

    Barber told me it should have been apparent that he was still living there since there was food in the fridge and his bed was made. "It was not vacant and they should have known that," Glazer said.

    Barber told me he had inherited the stolen coin collection from his grandfather and it included turn-of-the-century gold coins. The police report values the coin collection at $50,000. Barber said he had hoped to pass the coins to his heirs, too.

    "That meant a lot to me," he said.

    The sale occurred shortly after the alleged incident and Barber is living elsewhere now.
For the story, see Homeowner suing Wells Fargo after his house was ransacked and locks were changed.
------------------
(1) See Christopher K. Odinet, Banks, Break-Ins, and Bad Actors in Mortgage Foreclosure, 83 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1155 (2016).

Lawsuit: NYC Landlord, Developer, 'Fake' INS Agent Threaten Tenants w/ Immigration Raid If They Don't Clear Out Of Their Rent-Stabilized Apartments; Incident Sparks State AG Probe

In New York City, the New York Post reports:
  • A developer sent a fake immigration agent to an East Harlem building to threaten rent-stabilized tenants, sparking an investigation by the state attorney general, according to a new lawsuit.

    Araceli and Rosa Ramos said that soon after the landlord of their E. 115th Street building died his children tried to sell the property to the Valley Stream, NY-based real estate investment company Progressive Global.

    In February the company’s owner, Morais Dicks, allegedly warned the Ramos family that he would call the immigration authorities if they didn’t “clear out” of their $1,750-a-month apartments. Dicks visited the 10-unit apartment building with a man he identified as “friend from INS,” who was wearing was a badge on his clothing, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit over the incident.

    The late landlord’s daughter, Diane Marrero Pedrez, was with Dicks and his pal at the time, the suit says. She also demanded that the tenants vacate immediately, according to court papers.

    When they refused to leave their homes, where they’d lived since 2001, the late Pedrez’s son allegedly yelled that “he was happy he voted for Trump,” “was tired of all these immigrants” and was “going to ensure that someone rounded up” the tenants.

    Araceli, who was living in No. 2A with her two sons, did not have a current lease. Rosa occupied No. 4A with her mom. Their lease expired a year ago.

    When Dicks again threatened an immigration raid on March 13, the tenants accepted $1,000 payments and then fled “in fear,” their suit says.

    When they tried to return the money and come back to their apartments an employee of Dicks allegedly called them “immigrant pieces of s–t” who “had no right” to stay in the building, the suit says.

    Court papers do not comment on the tenants’ immigration status. Their attorney did not return calls for comment.

    Pedrez denied the allegations and said the tenants had illegally subdivided their apartments and were renting out the rooms. Dicks did not return a message.

    A representative for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed that their office is investigating and sent a task force to the property earlier this month.

    The Ramoses are suing Pedrez and Dicks over their forced eviction. They’re seeking unspecified damages and the ability to return to their apartments.

Landlord Evicts Wrong Tenant, Then Fires Maintenance Man Over His Refusal To Lie About What Happened; Management Responds To Media's Onsite Request For Comment By Giving Them The Boot As Well

In Jacksonville, Florida, Action News Jax Channel 30 reports:
  • A worker at an Arlington apartment complex said he was fired because he refused to lie after his employer evicted the wrong tenant.

    Last week, we told you about Brianna Davis, who contacted us saying that her apartment at Arlington Eagle had been cleared out and all of her belongings had been thrown in the trash.

    She told us last week that the management at Arlington Eagle had admitted they made a mistake and had the wrong apartment cleared because of an eviction.

    James Little said he was the maintenance man who cleared the apartment and was told to do so by management.

    "Around 3:30 in the afternoon, the young lady pulled up and I was at the next-door property and she said ‘Where are my belongings?’" Little said. He said that woman was Davis and called us after he saw her story on Action News Jax last week.

    We interviewed Davis last week after she said management had maintenance enter her home and throw away nearly everything she owned. "They were supposed to be going into apartment 213 and they went into apartment 223. The property manager said it was a mix-up," Davis told us on March 13.

    Little said management told him the same thing.

    He said that they gave him the wrong apartment number. He said what they asked him to do next made him angry.

    "They wanted me to lie and say that her belongings -- her laptop or furniture or things like that -- was not in there. That's bull," Little said.

    Since airing Davis's story, we have tried several times to contact management at the complex.

    We were kicked off the property and they did not return our calls.
Source: Wrong tenant evicted in Jacksonville; worker claims he was asked to lie about what happened.

For story update, see Wrong tenant evicted in Jacksonville, apartment management blames worker (The company accused of wrongfully evicting a local student from her apartment told Action News Jax it was a mistake and blames a former maintenance worker for it).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Prosecutor: Man Used Forged POA To Gain Control Of Dementia-Stricken Dad's Real Estate, Then Fleece Thousands In Monthly Royalties Collected From Leased Sand Mine, Rents From Apartments, Allowing Rental Units To Be Foreclosed

In Ellsworth, Wisconsin, the Pierce County Herald reports:
  • An Ellsworth man stole thousands of dollars in sand mine royalties from his father, according to charges filed last month in Pierce County Circuit Court.

    Richard L. Anderson was charged by summons Feb. 28 with felony theft from a vulnerable adult and receiving more than $10,000 in stolen property. His initial court appearance is set for April 10.

    According to a criminal complaint:

    A joint investigation between the Pierce County Sheriff's Office and the county's human services department was launched in 2014 after human services officials were alerted by a guardianship organization.

    Anderson and his father, Lloyd Anderson, had accumulated real estate, including 270 acres they leased to Wisconsin Specialty Sand, which agreed to pay them, Richard and Lloyd, along with Lloyd's wife Nellie and other son Gregory Anderson, royalties for at least five years beginning in 2006. The agreement called for the family to divide an average annual payment of $40,000 four ways.

    Richard encouraged his father to invest his savings in rental properties in Pierce and St. Croix counties — an arrangement that called for Lloyd to perform maintenance work while Richard handled legal and financial responsibilities.

    Richard, along with Mississippi Valley Guardians, was appointed co-guardian of Nellie's estate in 2010.

    In 2012, Lloyd was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and showed attorney Lars Loberg an estate plan. Loberg requested Lloyd complete a competency evaluation, though he didn't do that.

    Later that year, Richard drew up documents through LegalZoom to have himself appointed as his father's power of attorney.

    "Richard Anderson admitted that he had done this without the assistance of the Loberg Law Office after the Loberg Law Office had asked for a competency evaluation because Richard Anderson knew that if his father Lloyd Anderson failed a competency examination he would not have been able to sign a power of attorney," the complaint states.

    Richard also admitted to preparing a new will for his father.

    Over the course of about a year between 2012 and 2013, $9,854 in deposits were made from Lloyd's account to Richard's bank accounts.

    During the two-year period ending in 2014 when Richard took over Lloyd's estate, which included about $3,500 per month in sand mine royalties, there were numerous deposits into Richard's account that appeared to be rent checks.

    "Nothing in Lloyd Anderson's bank records indicates that he or Nellie Anderson received those royalty checks, and it appears that these royalty checks for the sand mine and the rent checks for Lloyd Anderson's rental properties were all directly received by Richard Anderson," according to the complaint, which goes on to note that most, if not all, of the rental units were foreclosed on.

    The guardianship organization requested Richard be removed from his mother's co-guardianship "due to his uncooperativeness in the administration of his mother's estate and to his receiving directly, without paying to his siblings or parents ... the royalty monies from the sand mine or the rental payments for his parents' farmland," the complaint states.

    Richard's power of attorney over his parents was terminated July 1, 2014. Lloyd died less than a year later.

St. Louis Feds Tag Property Managing Agent With Indictment Accusing Her Of Stealing Monthly Lease Payments From Hundreds Of Tenants, Then Giving Them All The Boot For Non-Payment Of Rent

In St. Louis, Missouri, KTVI-TV Channel 2 reports:
  • An area property manager was charged for allegedly stealing rent money from hundreds of tenants, keeping it for herself, and then sending those tenants eviction notices for not paying up.

    A federal grand jury has indicted 32-year-old Jasmine Outlaw for fraud.

    She's the former assistant property manager at Lucas Hunt Village Apartments in north St. Louis.

    Federal court documents show she started her scheme in 2014. Outlaw “requested tenants of Lucas Hunt to submit all rent payments to her and to make all money orders payable to her.” She'd then deposit the money orders into her personal bank and use the money for her own personal benefit “and proceed to evict tenants from Lucas Hunt while knowing she had actually stolen these tenants rent payments and that these tenants had indeed paid their rent in full and in a timely manner.”

    At the schemes peak in 2016, the apartments filed 355 cases against tenants for not paying rent. That's compared to 89 cases in 2013, the year before the scheme began.

Landlord Gets Bagged For Allegedly Stealing Over $200K In Rent Security Deposits In Connection With County Contract To Provide Low-Income Housing To Parolees

In Troy, New York, the Albany Times Union reports:
  • A former Stillwater town Democratic chairman was charged with stealing more than $200,000 in rent security deposits from Rensselaer County, District Attorney Joel Abelove said Monday [March 13].

    Gene T. Cook, 72, and his wife, Julie N. Cook, 69, also failed to report more than $100,000 in income, the DA's office said.

    The Department of Social Services and state Department of Taxation and Finance joined in the investigation, Abelove said.

    Gene Cook is accused of stealing $207,096 from the county Department of Social Services between Sept. 1, 1999, and July 1, 2016, by failing to return security deposits when his tenants at 68 Brunswick Road were evicted, the DA's office said. He had a contract with the county to provide low-income housing to parolees, some of whom were evicted after they were re-arrested.

    In April 2008, Troy shut down the Cook Arms Apartments, then the county's largest single-resident occupancy facility, for code violations. The apartment building later reopened.

    The Cooks are accused of failing to report $107,220 in taxable income on their state income tax return in 2011, the district attorney's office said. They paid the tax in subsequent years, authorities said.

    Both were charged with felony offering a false instrument for filing and misdemeanor criminal tax fraud.

    Gene Cook also was charged with felony grand larceny.

    The Cooks were arraigned last week at the county courthouse before State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Ceresia.

    Gene Cook resigned as Stillwater town Democratic chairman in 2005. He also was a Democratic candidate for Halfmoon supervisor in 1972 and for Saratoga County coroner.
Source: Ex-Stillwater politico, wife accused in funds thefts (Gene Cook, wife failed to report income, stole rent security deposits, DA says).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

California Appeals Court Nixes SF Ordinance That Squeezes Landlords For Up To $50K In "Ransom" To Tenants When Booting Them In 'Going-Out-Of-Business', Ellis Act Evictions

In San Francisco, California, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
  • When landlords decide to go out of the rental business, San Francisco can’t legally require them to pay their evicted tenants as much as $50,000 to cover the higher rents they’ll face on the open market, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday [March 21].

    A never-enforced 2015 ordinance that would have required the payments was “a form of ransom which interferes and places an undue burden on landlords who simply seek to go out of business,” said the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.

    The court said the ordinance, scaled down from a previous measure that was also overturned in court, violated property owners’ rights under a 1985 state law called the Ellis Act.

    That law, sponsored by the real estate industry, allows landlords to evict all their tenants when they leave the rental business, without having to show the usual legal grounds for eviction. Under a section of the law allowing local governments to require “reasonable” relocation assistance, courts have upheld a 2005 San Francisco ordinance that entitled displaced tenants to $4,500, adjusted annually for inflation.

    But the appeals court, upholding a Superior Court judge’s decision against the city, said the 2015 ordinance imposed a “prohibitive price” on owners who exercise their rights under the Ellis Act.

Boston Feds Bust Real Estate Operators For Alleged Conspiracy To Operate Short Sale Fraud; Prosecutors: Deals Failed To Meet "Arms-Length" Requirements, Involving Related Parties On Both Sides Of Transactions; Underwater Sellers Often Remained In Home After Closing Deal With Significantly Reduced Mortgage Debt

From the Office of the U.S.Attorney (Boston, Massachusetts):
  • A Methuen attorney and a Methuen loan officer pleaded guilty yesterday [March 23] in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley. Separately, a Methuen real estate broker was arrested on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on related charges, and a Dunstable attorney was sentenced after pleading guilty to participating in the same conspiracy.

    Jasmin Polanco, 37, a real estate closing attorney, and Vanessa Ricci, 40, a mortgage loan officer, each pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled Ricci’s sentencing for June 22, 2017. Polanco’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

    Separately, a real estate broker from Methuen, Greisy Jimenez, 49, was indicted this week on two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the same alleged scheme. In addition, on March 22, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel sentenced Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney from Dunstable, to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention.

    The charges arise out of an alleged scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen in which the purported sellers remained in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced. A short sale is a sale of real estate for less than the value of any mortgage debt on the property. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that typically occur only with the consent of the mortgage lender. Generally, the lender absorbs a loss on the loan and releases the borrower from the unpaid balance. By their very nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated, and in which the sellers cede their control of the subject properties in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid debt.

    The alleged conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater” with homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the alleged scheme, Jimenez, Polanco, Ricci, Bellerose and others submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales, thereby releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts, while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

    The charging documents allege that as part of the conspiracy:

    The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties, when in fact, the transactions were not arms-length; the buyers and sellers were frequently related, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale;

    The conspirators submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that they submitted to banks in order to obtain financing for the purported sales; and

    The conspirators submitted phony “HUD-1 Settlement Statements” to banks that did not accurately reflect the disbursement of funds in the transactions. (HUD-1 Settlement Statements are standard forms that are used to document the flow of funds in real estate transactions. They are required for all transactions involving federally related mortgage loans, including all mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.)

Three Salt Lake Real Estate Operators Get Pinched For Roles In Alleged Fraud Involving Short Sale Deals; Prosecutor: Trio Used Affiliated Entities To Control Both Sides Of Transaction, Violating 'Arm's Length' Requirements Between Unrelated Parties

In Salt Lake City, Utah, the Deseret News reports:
  • Three people were charged Tuesday[March 21] in an alleged fraudulent real estate scheme in Salt Lake County.

    Jason Hawkins, 44, Trevor Mecham, 43, and Debbie Pimm, 55, are each charged in 3rd District Court with carrying out a pattern of unlawful activity and five counts of communications fraud, all second-degree felonies.

    Court documents allege all three were involved in a scheme to defraud multiple financial institutions from 2010 to 2015 in connection with South Jordan-based Busy Bee Realty.

    Court documents say the defendants charged banks for a series of fabricated real estate fees, disguised as closing costs, attorneys fees, commissions and transfer fees, and then derived unlawful personal gain from those falsified costs.

    The charges state the Federal Housing Administration lost more than $300,000 in transactions for three properties. The mortgage insurer, Freddie Mac, also lost about $164,000 insuring the transactions for two properties, according to prosecutors. Mortgage association Fannie Mae was allegedly also defrauded out of more than $15,000.

    Charging documents also allege that as the defendants bought and sold property under a number of different business entities, they violated regulations for the "short sale" of real estate and did not comply with "arm's-length" transaction provisions which require that dealings be conducted between independent, unaffiliated businesses.

    Though the allegations center around the dealings of Busy Bee Realty, which Hawkins owned and operated, the charges claim the deceptive practices in question would also occur under the name of Advanced Financial Services or Ehmann Realty.

    The charges allege the defendants colluded by using the entities to improperly function as both sides of a transaction.

    These allegations of malpractice have been associated with the sale of properties in Sandy, South Jordan, West Jordan and West Valley City.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sleazy Ex-Hubby Uses Forged POA To Sell Wife's Condo Out From Under Her & Pocket The Cash; Jury Finds Title Insurer Liable For $1.35 Million For Role In Scheme; Appeal Expected

In Austin, Texas, the Southeast Texas Record reports:
  • A woman who claimed she was defrauded out of $1.35 million from the sale of her West Austin condominium has won her lawsuit against Chicago Title of Texas LLC and other businesses.

    A Travis County jury reached the verdict for Mari-Louise Larsen, a Danish citizen, finding that she was defrauded out of her condominium.

    “This case was won significantly, but we expect an appeal,” Brian Hail, attorney for Larsen and partner with Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP, told The Record.

    Larsen filed the fraud claim in 2013 against her ex-husband, Andre Jones, Chicago Title and other businesses.

    The fraud scheme included falsifying power of attorney to complete contracts and forgery involving a promissory note.

    Larsen met Jones in Austin in 2007 and the couple married in Denmark in 2009. While waiting to move to Austin, Larsen agreed to buying a luxury condominium in Austin with money from a family inheritance. Jones told Larsen that Texas law stated both of their names must be on the title, which was incorrect.

    When Larsen and Jones decided to divorce years later, Jones put the property up for sale. He then had Chicago Title’s attorney to use falsified documents to close the sale without Larsen’s knowledge. Jones kept the money from the sale.

    “This was one of the worst closings,” Hail said. “Jones is a con man in that he sold her condominium out from under her and pocketed the money.”

    Hail said Chicago Title held much of the blame.

    “You have to jump through hoops to get a house sold. There are numerous signatures required and her name wasn’t even on the contract,” Hail said. “Chicago Title should have helped prevent these things from happening but, instead, ignored them.”

Buyer Under Lease-Purchase Agreement Sues Real Estate Agent For Allegedly Failing To Tender Deed To Premises, Despite Having Paid $15K & Satisfied All Contractual Obligations

In Wayne, West Virginia, the West Virginia Record reports:
  • A Wayne County property buyer is suing a real estate agent, alleging breach of a lease agreement.

    Jacky Dale Thacker filed a complaint Feb. 21 in Wayne Circuit Court against Caneel Group LLC, alleging the real estate agent refused to provide the deed of sale of the property.

    According to the complaint, on June 27, 2016, Thacker transmitted funds of $15,000 to the real property agent when he purchased a parcel of real estate in Wayne County. The suit says Thacker fully performed his obligations but failed to received the deed despite repeated representations that a deed was forthcoming.

    The plaintiff alleges Caneel Group accepted the purchased monies but has failed, refused, and continues to fail in providing a deed to the property.

    Thacker seeks trial by jury, an amount sufficient to make the plaintiff whole, including compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs and all other and relief the court deems appropriate.

Upstate NY Title Hijacker Gets 2 1/3 To 7 Years For Using Forged Deed, Bogus 'Adverse Possession' Claim In Attempt To Snatch & Flip Title To Building Valued At $1 Million

In Albany, New York, the Albany Times Union reports:
  • A "sovereign citizen" who tried to scam ownership of a former restaurant site in Colonie was sentenced to 2 1/3 to seven years in state prison on Thursday [March 23].

    Judge Peter Lynch imposed the sentence on 22-year-old Zachariah Latnie for his bid to sell property he did not own. Latnie will be eligible to serve his sentence in a shock incarceration program, six months of highly regimented substance-abuse treatment.

    Prosecutors asked the judge to impose a much harsher sentence of five to 15 years. Lynch pointed out the man does not have a criminal record and committed the crimes at age 19.

    "It's like you've been somehow brainwashed into thinking this whole universe exists for you. It does not,"Lynch said to Latnie.

    The District Attorney's office says the 1893 Central Ave. property Latnie tried to sell was worth $1 million.

    The jury, which began deciding Latnie's fate on Jan. 18, reached its verdict the next day: Guilty on 15 of 21 counts.

    Latnie was convicted of attempted grand larceny, burglary, possessing burglar's tools, conspiracy, tampering with public records, filing false deeds and falsifying business records. They acquitted him of six counts alleging tampering with public records and false filings.

    The verdict ended an unusual case in which Latnie argued he possessed a building that he admitted he never purchased. Latnie claimed he owned the building through "adverse possession," placing a notice on it.

    "People do not enter property that they have legal rights to be entering through the roof," Lynch said during the sentencing.

    In August 2014, Colonie police charged him with trespassing but he returned to the site and was arrested again. He filed phony deeds with the county clerk's office and tried to sell the property, which was in foreclosure.
    ***
    Latnie told the judge Thursday that he intends to appeal the conviction.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Central Florida Man Cops Guilty Plea To Criminal Interference w/ Another's Housing Rights For Role In Halloween-Night Cross Burning Incident; Defendant, Others Intended To Intimidate Interracial Couple Into Moving From Home In Predominantly White Community, Say Civil Rights Feds

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department today [March 10] announced that Thomas Herris Sigler, III, 45, of Port Richey, Florida, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, to one count of conspiring with others to threaten, intimidate, and interfere with an interracial couple’s enjoyment of their housing rights, in violation of U.S. Code, Title 18 U.S.C. § 241.

    “The defendant threatened and intimidated a couple in their home and neighborhood, denying them of the simple ability to feel safe where they lived, on account of race,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who engage in such violent acts.”

    “No one should be threatened or intimidated in his home because of his race, color, or creed,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida. “It is sad that crosses are being burned in front yards in the 21st century. Acts of hatred such as this simply cannot be tolerated under law.”

    “Unfortunately, people hold bias and prejudice against others for no apparent reason,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI Tampa Division. “This case demonstrates people who act out such prejudices will be held accountable. Such behavior is unacceptable.”

    According to court documents, in September and October 2012, Sigler was living on Seward Drive in Port Richey in a predominantly white community. After an interracial couple moved next door, Sigler harassed the African-American neighbor with racial slurs and derogatory statements, and on one occasion, physically assaulted him.

    On Halloween night, Sigler attended a party at a neighbor’s house, where several Seward Drive residents decided to burn a cross in the front yard of the interracial couple in order to intimidate them and force them to move from the residence. Using wood and tools from the host of the Halloween party, Sigler and his co-conspirators constructed a wooden cross and poured gasoline on the cross. Sigler’s co-conspirators then carried the cross to the victims’ front yard, leaned it against their mailbox, and set the cross on fire.

    One of Sigler’s co-conspirators, Pascual Carlos Pietri, pled guilty to the same charge as Sigler in 2015, and was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment on March 23, 2016. A third co-conspirator, William A. Dennis, 56, of Pasco County, Florida, is also charged for his role in the conspiracy.
Source: Pasco County, Florida, Man Pleads Guilty to 2012 Cross Burning.

Go here for other posts on cross-burning prosecutions involving the charge of interference with the housing rights of another.

Wisconsin Appeals Court On State Fair Housing Law: OK To Boot Occupant Solely For Racial Reasons When Landlord Rents Out Bedroom In His Home To A Roommate (As Opposed To Renting A Separate Dwelling Unit)

In Madison, Wisconsin, The Associated Press reports:
  • A Wisconsin appeals court says a white landlord had the right to kick a tenant out of his house because he is black.

    Michael Haller forced Martin Jones to move out of his home in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood in 2013 after Haller’s wife said she didn’t feel comfortable with an African-American living in their house.(1)

    Wisconsin law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on race. But the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday [March 14] that the law doesn’t apply in this case because Jones was renting a bedroom in Haller’s house rather than a separate dwelling unit.

    The court said Haller has the right to decide who shares his home.

    Jones’ attorney hasn’t returned a message asking for comment.
Source: Wisconsin appeals court: Landlord can evict black roommate.

For the court ruling, see Jones v. Haller, 2016AP4 (Wis. App,, Dist 1, March 14, 2017).
-----------------------
(1) According to the facts of the case:
  • In February 2013, Jones and Haller entered into an agreement whereby Jones would rent one bedroom of Haller’s home, [...], for $400 per month. Jones is African American; Haller is Caucasian. At the time Jones moved in, Haller was separated from his wife. Haller’s wife, however, came to [the home] occasionally during Jones’s tenancy to do laundry. Some time during the week of February 25, 2013, she met Haller.

    According to the complaint, on March 2, 2013, Haller’s wife was at [the home] and got into an argument with Haller. Following the argument, Haller informed Jones that Jones would have to move out because his wife had issues with an African American living in the house. Haller informed Jones that he had to take his wife’s wishes into account because her name was also on the title to [the home].

    On March 13, 2013, Haller gave Jones a notice to vacate no later than April 30, 2013. Jones moved out in late March or early April 2013. fair housing

Informed To Pack Their Bags & Leave To Make Way For Development, Lot-Leasing Mobile Homeowners Refuse To Go Without Fight; Will File Lawsuit Alleging Housing Discrimination Against Community Comprised Of Nearly All Hispanic Families

In SeaTac, Washington, KING-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • The attorney representing families in the Firs Mobile Home Park in SeaTac says a new lawsuit will be filed in King County Superior Court, arguing the current landowner is not doing enough to support evicted homeowners.

    The owner of the mobile home park notified all residents that they must be out by October 31 to make room for development.

    Attorney Omar Barraza says the suit against the city of SeaTac and the landowner John Park also claims discrimination. Nearly all families in the Firs community are Hispanic.

    Jeff Robinson, the city's economic development manager, has held meetings to try and bridge the divide between residents and the land owner. Robinson says he is urging the park to help residents find a new place to live but says the city's hands are tied.(1)

    An attorney representing Mr. Park did not respond when asked for comment on the lawsuit.

St. Louis Suburb Gets Tagged With Fair Housing Lawsuit Alleging It Selectively Enforced City's "Chronic Nuisance Ordinance" Against Black Residents While Ignoring Similar Conduct By Non-Black Residents

In St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Public Radio KWMU 90.7 FM reports:
  • The city of Maplewood faces a federal lawsuit for alleged discriminatory housing practices against black and disabled residents and victims of domestic violence.

    The city's "chronic nuisance ordinance," which was instituted in 2006, is enforced "selectively" and ignores "similar conduct" by residents who aren't African-American, according to the lawsuit filed late Monday [March 13] by the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, or EHOC.(1)

    The suit, which claims the municipality's practices violate the federal Fair Housing Act, especially after guidance issued last year by the Obama administration, is based on 43 instances of home evictions since 2011, said Sasha Samberg-Champion, an attorney for Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC,(2) which is representing EHOC in the lawsuit.

    “Although African-American residents are only 17 percent of the city, more than half of all the actions we've found have been taken against African-American residents,” he said Tuesday citing documents obtained by recent open record requests to the city.

    The city of Maplewood had not received a copy of the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon, so it was unable to comment, a spokeswoman said.

    In recent years, other municipalities in St. Louis County have also faced lawsuits and investigations for alleged discriminatory practices involving local police departments and court systems. Following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded Ferguson’s police department and municipal court routinely violated the civil rights of citizens in a pattern or practice of racial bias.

    Last December, the Justice Department and the St. Louis County Family Court reached a deal to settle claims that the court routinely violated the civil rights of juveniles it served. The Justice Department also found that black children in the court were routinely punished more harshly than white children, even when taking the severity of the crime into account.

    According to a news release announcing the lawsuit, that Maplewood’s “chronic nuisance ordinance” disproportionately affects minorities is not unique.

    Thousands of local governments across the country have enacted nuisance property or crime-free ordinances under the guise of advancing public safety,” said Kate Walz, Director of Housing Justice at the Shriver Center and a national expert on such laws. “In reality, these laws undermine public safety by forcing crime victims to suffer in silence and criminalizing renters, especially those who are people of color, for non-criminal activity. Local governments should consider other, more legal methods for improving public safety, such as working directly with renters as partners to improve the quality and safety of their housing.”

    Using the ordinance, the suit said, Maplewood revoked the occupancy permit of people who are the "subject of multiple police calls, regardless of whether they did anything wrong," including victims of domestic violence or people in need of city services. A nuisance can be defined as two calls to police within an 180-day period, the lawsuit said.

    The EHOC said it looked at ordinance-enforcement records over five years, noting that black residents were far more likely to be affected than white people. It also said more than a quarter of the people who were stripped of their occupancy permit during the timeframe had mental illness or a disability.
Source: Lawsuit alleges Maplewood 'nuisance ordinance' discriminates against minority residents.

For the lawsuit, see Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council v. City of Maplewood, Missouri.
----------------------
(1) The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council is a private, not-for-profit fair housing enforcement agency working to end illegal housing discrimination in the Metropolitan St. Louis area, and operates throughout Missouri and Illinois. Among its core activities are: education on fair housing laws, enforcement actions against those who are found, through investigations, discriminate illegally; and community outreach.

(2) Relman, Dane & Colfax is a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., litigating civil rights cases nationally in the areas of housing, lending, employment, public accommodations, education, and police accountability. Among its notable cases were the "ghetto loans" cases of several years ago in which notorious bankster Wells Fargo was tagged with lawsuits alleging it engaged in 'reverse redlining' when peddling predatory home mortgage loans in minority neighborhoods. See, generally, Feds, Wells Fargo Reach $125M Deal To Settle 'Ghetto Loan' Peddling Allegations.

Landlord Who Allegedly Tried To Boot Blind, PTSD-Suffering Tenant's Assistance Animals Agrees To Cough Up $20K (Tenant's Share - $15K) To Settle Massachusetts AG's Charges Of Fair Housing Violations

From the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:
  • Multiple individuals will receive monetary damages and several property owners and management companies across the state will strengthen their anti-discrimination and fair housing policies after three separate settlements were reached over claims of disability-based housing discrimination against tenants, Attorney General Maura Healey announced [recently].

    The AG’s Office finalized settlements in three separate cases resolving allegations that the defendants, mainly property owners and managers, discriminated against tenants by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities.
In one case:
  • New Depot and Housing Solutions own a rental property located in East Wareham that consists of approximately 32 affordable housing units managed by HallKeen through property manager Dianne Callahan.

    According to the AG’s complaint, these defendants engaged in discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of his disability by failing to provide reasonable accommodations. The tenant is blind and suffers from PTSD and relies on assistance animals.

    The complaint alleged that the defendants ultimately rushed to court to seek an order to remove the tenant’s assistance animals rather than engage in an interactive dialogue as required by law, and therefore effectively denied the tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.

    Pursuant to a consent judgement filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $20,000, including $15,000 in damages to the tenant and $5,000 to the Commonwealth. An additional $5,000 will be suspended pending the defendants’ compliance with the terms of the settlement, which also require the defendants to institute a comprehensive fair housing and anti-discrimination policies and train staff on fair housing rights.
For more, see AG Healey Obtains Multiple Settlements in Fair Housing Cases on Behalf of Tenants With Disabilities (Properties Located in Worcester, Roxbury, and East Wareham; Settlements Secure $155,000 in Restitution for Tenants, Penalties and Funding for Educational Programs).