Did the City of Angels just front money to a landlord named in a federal indictment for money laundering?
Kind of — though it plans to sue him to get it back. City lawmakers agreed last week to pay almost $400,000 in relocation assistance to landlord Morad “Ben” Neman’s evicted tenants at two illegal warehouses in the Fashion District.
Officials decided to provide the fees after Neman refused to pay up, L.A. Weekly reported.
Neman, who was indicted in 2014 in a money laundering case involving the Sinaloa drug cartel, is required under city law to pay for the relocation of his tenants. The L.A. Fire Department determined last year that the two properties — one at 931 E. Pico Boulevard and another at 1518 S. Paloma Street — are illegal dwellings and ordered their closure.
Without Neman missing in action, the residents reached out to City Council for help, and it complied. Urged by Council member Jose Huizar in an emergency motion, lawmakers voted unanimously to supply the tenants $382,850, or between $8,000 to $19,700 per tenant depending on how long they had lived there.
The City Attorney’s Office now has grounds to sue Neman to reimburse the city for the money, according to Huizar’s office.
The two warehouses — among others in the Fashion District and Chinatown — came under city scrutiny in the wake of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people. At the time of the crackdown, some housing rights activists raised concerns that it would displace low-income tenants.
Neman recently listed his home in Beverly Hills for $15 million. Despite the allegations against him, he has been planning a 372-unit, 60-story tower at the site of the Downtown Car Wash at Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street. Its unknown how his various run-ins with the law with impact the development. [L.A. Weekly] — Cathaleen Chen