SOURCE: Bradshaw & Associates

March 24, 2010 15:46 ET

Bankruptcy Fraud Is Latest in String of Complaints Against Owners of Oroville Inn

Oroville City Council Cites Oroville Inn Owners for "Nuisance" and "Substandard Housing"; SF Attorney Drexel A. Bradshaw Represents Residents Living in "Inhuman Conditions" by Absentee Landlord

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - March 24, 2010) -  In the words of Oroville Inn resident David Hardy, his home is "a seismic disaster waiting to happen." And according to San Francisco Attorney Drexel A. Bradshaw (www.bradshawassociates.com) who represents Hardy and more than two dozen of his fellow residents, the Oroville Inn's owner, Jonothan Benefield, is not only criminally negligent but also engaged in serious bankruptcy fraud. 

"Add to Benefield's list of sins a shell game in which he is not only mistreating his tenants but trying to illegally avoid a mountain of ill gotten debt," said Bradshaw, who has filed suit to force Benefield to live up to his obligations and make financial restitution to the tenants, many of whom have seen their health deteriorate due to their residency at the Oroville Inn. 

"The Oroville Inn is owned by Walnut Hill Enterprises, LLC. A Chapter 13 was filed by W.H.E., LLC. -- a similar but not identical company name," Bradshaw explains. "These are not the same entity. The bankruptcy petition contends the bankruptcy estate has less than $50,000 in assets, and does not include my clients, the tenants, as creditors. Despite the fact that Walnut Hill Enterprises, LLC has not filed for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy attorney has asserted that a stay is in effect, meaning we can't move forward with the complaint on behalf of the Oroville Inn tenants. This is totally false. Adding insult to injury, the bankruptcy attorney sent a threatening notice to each tenant stating that they had to keep paying rent. In simple language: That's bankruptcy fraud."

Until Bradshaw's efforts, Hardy -- like dozens of other low-income and some disabled residents of the Oroville Inn (2066 Bird Street, Oroville) -- has been powerless even though Benefield had been cited by the Oroville City Council for maintaining a property that is a "nuisance" and "substandard" with more than 700 violations of health and safety codes. On January 2, 2009 the owners of the Oroville Inn denied the City's request for a voluntary inspection resulting in a warrant which forced an inspection on January 22, 2009. So horrific were the conditions found there that immediate improvements "or demolition of the property" was ordered by the Court. To date, no improvements have been made.

"My clients have been living in fear and squalor for years," says Bradshaw. "The inhuman conditions at the Oroville Inn are shameless. Rats would be hard pressed to call it a suitable home -- and in fact, they do."

This past October, Benefield was called in front of the Oroville City Council to address the violations and to answer dozens of residents afraid to live in -- or leave -- the Inn. The evidence produced a troubling portrait of a building owner who had sought out low-income tenants because he believed they would not complain at the deplorable conditions at the Oroville Inn. A compelling piece of evidence was a video shot on the premises in 2009 which provided a vivid visual account of the property's deplorable living conditions including danger from electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, mold and exposure to disease.

"One unit has water leaking through its ceiling every time the neighbor above flushes his toilet," says Bradshaw. "Without exaggeration, the entire property is a petting zoo for cockroaches, mice and other vermin -- the last word which also, I believe, described the building's owners."

According to Bradshaw's complaint on behalf of the Oroville Inn residents, Benefield has attempted to skirt his duties by stating the Inn's status as an Historic Landmark exempts him from the usual Building codes.

A 72-page complaint has been filed by Bradshaw in the United States District Court in Sacramento listing in gory detail a pattern of criminal neglect.

"To prey on the poor and the weak is as low as one can go," said Bradshaw. "I would ask Mr. Benefield if he has no shame, but I think it's a rhetorical question."

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts:
    David Perry & Associates, Inc.
    David Perry
    (415) 693-0583
    cell: (415) 676-7007
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