EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – CBS2 is continuing to demand answers from the landlord in our “Forgotten Families” series.
Men, women, and children have been moved out of the city’s homeless shelters and placed in homes in New Jersey that had no water and no heat, and in some cases even had holes in the walls.
Landlord Sean Young has missed several court appearances in East Orange, instead sending representatives in his place who couldn’t tell the judge where he was.
After the judge issued a $25,000 bench warrant, Young on Wednesday finally showed up. That’s where our own Lisa Rozner caught up with him, and he was far from pleased to see her or her camera crew.
He attempted to dodge her questions as his lawyer, Calvin Souder, physically prevented Rozner from speaking to him.
Web Extra: Watch The Entire Interaction As It Happened
Young is accused of taking money from New York City to house to house at least two homeless families we’ve spoken to who were participating in the Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) program. As part of SOTA, the Department of Homeless Services covers one year’s rent for eligible working parents with the city paying private landlords, such as Young, up front and in full.
All Young said on Wednesday was that he’s moved the families.
“I’ve moved the people,” he said. “They’ve already been taken care of. I’ve moved them already.”
Young was in court for 18 housing violations with East Orange. The judge adjourned the case, giving him two weeks to clean up and get certificates showing his properties are habitable. He’ll also have to pay the city the thousands of dollars it’s shelled out to house homeless families who could not stay in his apartments.
“He got rent for a year in advance and he basically, in my eyes, took advantage of the situation,” East Orange Municipal Prosecutor Mark Cintron said.
Those tenants include Michael Leake, who Young moved from one home to another his family also couldn’t live in due to mold.
“You could tell he’s not willing to face what he’s done that’s wrong,” the SOTA recipient said. “Right your wrongs, return to the city back their money.”
DHS Commissioner Steve Banks recently told CBS2 the city would begin to hold landlords accountable. On Wednesday, no one from DHS was in court for Young’s appearance. Officials in East Orange say they haven’t heard from them either.
“I have my assistant director currently researching trying to find out who the people are, who to contact and we just get the runaround,” Mark Barner, director of property maintenance for East Orange, said.
DHS has gotten in touch with Leake after CBS2’s report, and he’s looking at a new home in Newark with a new property owner.
“I think think this is really going to put us where we need to be in an expedited process,” Leake said.
CBS2 has spoken to a dozen families and profiled seven of them. Leake’s is the first we’ve seen a possible solution. Another family who lived in Young’s property is back in a homeless shelter.
Meanwhile, Young is due back in court on March 13th.
DHS says they’re working with law enforcement to investigate any potential wrongdoing and fraud in an effort to go after landlords like Young.