LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the managers and owners of two apartment buildings in the Westlake District sexually harassed their female tenants for over a decade.
The Justice Department complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles alleges Filomeno Hernandez, Ramin Akhavan, Bonnie Brae Investment Services LLC, and Westlake Property Services LLC violated the Fair Housing Act at properties located at 729 S. Bonnie Brae St. and 720 S. Westlake Ave. near MacArthur Park.
According to prosecutors, Hernandez, the property manager for both locations, sexually harassed female residents from at least 2006 through the present.
Hernandez allegedly engaged in frequent and repeated unwanted sexual touching, including sexual assault; making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; offering to reduce rent or excusing late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex; and entering the homes of female tenants without their consent, according to the filing.
Prosecutors say Hernandez handles “all aspects of management” at both properties – including sorting and hand-delivering mail to tenants because neither property has locked mailboxes.
“Sexual harassment of vulnerable women is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate this behavior by any landlord or property manager,” said Nick Hanna, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. “Those who abuse their positions of power will be held accountable under the Fair Housing Act.”
But Akhavan and Hernandez told CBSLA the allegations are a set-up: he says the properties were gang-infested until Hernandez drove them out when he came on board in 2006.
Gang members have been influencing female residents to make the allegations in order to capitalize on the “Me Too” movement, Akhavan added.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties, and a court order barring future discrimination.