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Public Safety

City Attorney Charges La Jolla Couple For Renting Dangerous Apartments To Refugees

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott sits at the dais, Dec. 12, 2016.

Criminal charges were filed against a La Jolla couple accused of maintaining dangerous substandard living conditions at a Mid-City apartment complex they own, the City Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

John and Mahin Nobel, who face 10 criminal charges, are repeat offenders who have been previously prosecuted for similar violations and for leasing to illegal marijuana dispensaries, according to City Attorney Mara Elliott.

The couple's Rex Avenue apartment complex in Mid-City was leased in July, August and September to seven Congolese refugee families with young children. Upon moving, the families complained about the substandard conditions, but their requests were ignored, prosecutors allege.


RELATED: Investigation: San Diego Refugees Face Housing Dilemma

An inspector with the Code Enforcement Division of the Development Services Department found 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, the City Attorney's Office alleges.

Outside the building, the inspector found human waste, graffiti and an accumulation of junk. Exit and fire violations were created when the apartments were illegally converted from two-bedroom units into three- or four- bedroom units, according to Elliott.

RELATED: Refugee Families Forced To Move; Too Many Living In Their Apartments

"It is unacceptable that these young children and their families lived in life-threatening and unsanitary conditions," Elliott said. "Our office will prosecute slumlords who refuse to comply with the law and exploit vulnerable people to maximize their personal gain."


Earlier this month, ruling in an administrative matter brought by the City Attorney's Office, Administrative Law Judge Michael Scarlett found the property was substandard under city and state codes and a public nuisance.

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

RELATED: Former Tenants Of Derelict Landlord Tossed Into Punishing Rental Market

At that hearing, a city code inspector testified that the Rex Avenue apartment complex was the most dangerous apartment complex he has inspected in his career.

A readiness conference is scheduled for Jan. 23.

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