U.S. Marshals Poised to Evict Oakland Tenants in Potentially Illegal Action

Thursday, February 21, 2019

KQED – By Darwin BondGraham

When the FBI started closing in on Oakland landlord Yaniv Gohar a little over a year ago, his tenants welcomed the news.

Things had been stressful ever since February 2017, when Gohar purchased the multi-unit property on East 11th Street where Emilio Luna and Mirna Sanchez live. Luna and Sanchez said that Gohar showed up in a car with no license plates and demanded that they and the two other households living in the building move out.

According to the tenants, Gohar said he would go to court for an eviction order if necessary. He told them he planned to renovate the old Victorian house that had been divided long ago into four apartments and rent the units out for much higher prices, they said. The tenants refused to leave and cited Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction ordinance, which provides strong renter protections.

But they said Gohar kept up the pressure by demanding large rent increases. Even though they had rent control, two tenants in the building, Christian Perez and Denia Caballero, agreed to pay significantly more, rather than continue fighting. Perez said he agreed to a $400 increase on top of his $1,000 monthly rent.

But Luna and Sanchez objected. “We complained to the city of Oakland,” said Sanchez in a recent interview. A hearing officer with the city’s Rent Adjustment Program blocked Gohar from raising the $600 monthly rent on their studio unit by more than $50.

Afterward, Luna and Sanchez said that Gohar retaliated by ignoring requests to fix their broken stove, provide their building with fire extinguishers and replace the moldy carpet. City code enforcement records confirm that Luna and Sanchez filed a complaint about the broken stove and other problems.

So when FBI agents knocked on their doors in January 2018 asking about Gohar’s activities, the renters assumed that relief from the constant threat of eviction was on its way.

“We always cooperated with them,” said Luna about the FBI’s inquiries.

But now Luna and the other tenants are facing eviction again — potentially as soon as this weekend — from the federal law enforcement officials who took over management of their building. After prosecutors indicted Gohar on criminal charges, they seized his Oakland rental properties. Now, the U.S. Marshals Service, which acts as the custodian of the seized buildings, has been attempting to evict the renters and sell off the buildings.

The tenants, some of whom have lived there for more than a decade, said it’s unfair that they’re being pushed out of their homes despite playing no part in the crimes of which Gohar is accused.

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