'Slumlords' charged for San Diego refugee apartment complex with dangerous conditions

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The San Diego City Attorney’s Office is prosecuting a La Jolla couple it calls ‘slumlords’ for the conditions at a Mid-City property.

The complex at 5344 Rex Ave. was home to seven Congolese refugee families and their children.

Prosecutors said a property inspection turned up numerous violations including mold, rodent and roach infestation, inadequate heating, inadequate sanitation, improper electrical connections, and a lack of proper fire exits and fire extinguishers. Outside the building, the inspector found human waste, graffiti, an accumulation of junk, and numerous structural and fire hazards, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Investigators said many of the exit and fire violations were created when the apartments were illegally converted from two-bedroom units into three- or four-bedroom units.

A City code inspector testified that the Rex Avenue apartment complex was the most dangerous apartment complex he has inspected, said prosecutors.

Owners John and Mahin Nobel pleaded not guilty Monday to 10 criminal charges. Property manager Devdatt Patel also pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors describe the Nobels as repeat offenders who have been previously prosecuted for similar violations and for leasing to illegal marijuana dispensaries. 

The judge ordered the Nobels to reimburse the City $34,278 in relocation benefit payments advanced by the City to the seven families. The couple was also assessed a civil liability of $10,000 for their failure to pay relocation benefit payments directly to their tenants, and ordered to reimburse the City $6,845 in investigative costs.

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