Oakland's Ridge Hotel considered for arson scam
By Lynda Carson -- Feb. 8, 2011
Oakland - Amid the squeals of children's laughter and the nearby sounds of a bouncing basketball quickly fading away in the distance, the presence of wealthy slumlords and their dangerous cockroach, bed bug, and rodent infested buildings are a part of Oakland's landscape.
According to a Criminal Complaint filed on Jan. 14, 2011, with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Richard Earl Singer and an accompanying affidavit declared by Cynthia M. Cunningham, Special Agent ATF, Singer is accused of hiring an arsonist to burn down the Menlo Hotel. The affidavit also reveals that Singer had also considered burning down the occupied residential Ridge Hotel.
In the affidavit Special Agent Cunningham declared that Singer owns 2 residential hotels in Oakland (Menlo Hotel and 60% of the Ridge Hotel), that are the subject of civil litigation due to claims of uninhabitability, and that according to public records the first of the lawsuits was filed during September of 2009.
Additionally, according to Special Agent Cunningham two individuals (informants) reported to federal authorities in October, 2010, that multi-millionaire Richard Singer of Tiburon, had previously indicated that he wanted someone to burn down one of his hotels in Oakland.
For reasons that have not yet been revealed, Singer allegedly decided to burn down the Menlo Hotel instead of the Ridge Hotel and according to Special Agent Cunningham, Singer handed over a $1,500 check for the arsonist to buy the materials needed to burn down the Menlo Hotel, as planned for Jan. 15. Both hotels were still occupied with residents when Singer was placed into custody, and on the first floor of the Menlo Hotel it was occupied by a Korean restaurant and a nail salon.
On December 28, 2010, Singer met with one of the ATF informants, and in a recorded conversation Singer was asked if he still wanted to get rid of one of his hotels in Oakland, and Singer said "yeah," according to the affidavit. The two of them continued talking and the informant told Singer how someone in New York was found that is a professional, and they eventually settled upon the Menlo Hotel as being the better target of arson.
According to Special Agent Cunningham, Singer wanted to burn down one of the two hotels so that he could collect a maximum insurance payment, despite the fact that both hotels were still occupied, and he was to pay the arsonist an additional $63,500 around 48 hours after the hotel was burned down. Pages 2 through 5 of the affidavit detail the discussions that took place regarding the decision to burn down the Menlo Hotel, instead of the Ridge Hotel.
The Ridge Hotel is located at 634 15th St., Oakland, and it's total taxable value is $2,647,892 according to the Alameda County Tax Assessor. The Menlo Hotel is located at 344 13th St., Oakland, and is listed for sale with Harbor Bay Realty of Alameda, for $3.5 million.
Bruce Nelson is one of the attorneys representing the residents at the Ridge Hotel, and said: "There are around 200 residents in the Ridge Hotel, and it seems like some of the employees of RMD Services take great pleasure in abusing the tenants. The building is run down, and its been very difficult to get the City of Oakland to follow through with code compliance issues that have not been resolved. Currently there are around 54 residents involved in litigation with RMD Services, and on Jan. 3, 2011, RMD Services filed for bankruptcy."
Ryan Nathan and RMD Services were hired by Singer to manage the Menlo Hotel and Ridge Hotel. On December 15, 2010, RMD Services served fake "30 Day Notices" (eviction notices) to the residents of the Menlo Hotel in violation of Oakland's rent law known as Measure EE, and ordered the tenants to be out of their housing by Jan. 15, 2011, the same day that Richard Singer allegedly planned to burn down the Menlo Hotel.
Singer's attorney Paul Wolf was not available for comment, and did not return a call for an interview. Singer is scheduled next to appear in court on Feb. 24, at 9:30a.m., in courtroom #4, at 1301 Clay St.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com