JUDGE LANDS HARD ON LANDLORD COUPLE
Worst of the worst? 179-181 Shrewsbury Avenue.
Municipal Court Judge William Himelman last week slapped an Eatontown couple with $36,000 in fines and threatened them with up to 360 days in jail if they don’t correct dozens of problems in four rental properties they own on the West Side by Feb. 21.
Iris and Miguel Acevedo, who list their own address as 250 Broad Street, Eatontown, pleaded guilty to 41 summonses in borough court last Thursday, according to Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, who was present for the case.
Himelman imposed fines totaling $72,000 on the couple, but suspended half as part of a plea bargain that also reduced the number of summonses from 72, said Kevin Wigenton, the attorney who represented them. (Wigenton was retained privately by the Acevedos; he wasn’t acting in his capacity as the borough’s public defender, he said.)
The judge also said he would immediately jail each of the defendants for 90 days for each house that was not brought fully into compliance with safety and building codes, Sickels said.
The Acevedo prosecution, said Sickels, was the first test of a new database being created by borough officials to comprehensively track the enforcement of overcrowding and other rules.
“We started with the worst case,” Sickels said, adding that the database enabled Borough Prosecutor James Butler to demonstrate to Himelman the breadth of the Acevedo’s problematic property holdings, which have been cited in the past.
Monmouth County records show Iris Acevedo as the owner of 17 Red Bank properties in her own name and two others with her husband, Miguel; he owns another solely. All the addresses are on the West Side.
Last week’s prosecution concerned four houses:
38 East Westside Avenue
84 West Sunset Avenue
125 Leighton Avenue
179-181 Shrewsbury Avenue.
The Shrewsbury Avenue property alone accounted for nearly half the violations to which the Acevedos pleaded guilty. Sickels said Himelman slapped the couple with the maximum $2,000-per-violation fines.
“Those are significant fines,” he told redbankgreen. “And he told them, ‘You will go to jail'” if the deficiencies aren’t fixed.
Wigenton said that the Acevedos are “very remorseful” and working hard to bring the houses into compliance.
“They have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But they look forward to getting all the homes up to code.” He said that borough officials “have been willing to work with us in spite of the fines and in spite of the jail terms.”
Sickels said landlords have been sentenced to jail stints in the past, but this is the first instance in some years.
Mayor Pasquale Menna is planning to use information developed in the database to publicly shame repeat offenders among absentee landlords, including, he says, swells from Colts Neck and Rumson whose photos frequently appear in the so-called society pages of a weekly newspaper.
Delays in completing the database, and practical questions about how to put Menna’s goals into effect, have delayed a formal announcement, expected two weeks ago, on the mayor’s overall plan.