The wealthy Tiburon owner of Oakland’s low-income Menlo Hotel has been arrested, and is facing 10 years in prison, on suspicion of hiring someone to burn down the residential hotel, according to officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In addition to being charged with a federal felony and facing 10 years in prison, Menlo Hotel owner Richard Earl Singer also faces a $125,000 fine, after being charged with one count of solicitation of arson.
Federal officials say that Singer wanted the hotel totally burned down on January 15, to collect a maximum insurance payment, and agreed to pay $65,000 to someone for burning down the hotel.
Additionally, federal officials say that two people came forward to expose the arson scam, one of them a former employee of the management company running the hotel, known as RMD Services.
In a phone call on January 19 to RMD Services, an employee who only identified himself as Steven, said, “RMD Services had nothing to do with the hiring of anyone to burn down the Menlo Hotel, and Ryan Nathan, the owner of RMD Services, is not available for comment at the moment.”
Ryan Nathan and RMD Services served the residents of the Menlo Hotel “30 Day Notices” to vacate the property as recently as Dec. 15, 2010, and demanded that the residents move out of their housing by Jan. 15, 2011, the same day that federal officials now state that the building owner, Richard Singer, wanted the building set ablaze, and burned down.
A few households are still residing in the Menlo Hotel, and attorney Andrew Wolff is representing at least 20 past and current residents of the hotel, in ongoing litigation with RMD Services.
Despite the arrest of Singer, more evictions at the Menlo Hotel have continued.
In a new development, Oakland City Attorney John Russo may get involved and file an injunction against RMD Services, in an effort to stop the illegal evictions taking place, that are in violation of Oakland’s rent law, Measure EE.
Attorney Andrew Wolff said, “I heard the news about the scam to burn down the hotel, and it was absolutely shocking and obscene. The longer I have been involved in litigation with Mr. Singer, the more my expectations have been lowered of him. At this point, I am not surprised by what happened, and that he was arrested for trying to hire someone to burn down the building.”
“My initial feeling was shock, but in time I feel that I am not surprised. I feel the charges are very damning. Its unbelievable what is going on there, and I am very concerned for the safety of the residents of the Menlo Hotel.”
Oakland Post editor and owner Paul Cobb said, “I would like to see some kind of system set up like an Amber Alert, to alert local agencies, tenants, and tenant groups of bad landlords and buildings at risk of arson fire, from landlords trying to collect on their insurance policies, such as in cases like this.”
Tenants of the Menlo Hotel have been involved in a lawsuit against RMD Services over a lack of elevator service, bad plumbing, poor heating, roach and bedbug infestations, and other problems.
The Menlo Hotel is managed and operated by RMD Services, for Singer. Ryan Nathan is the founder of RMD Services 1, LLC, RMD Services II, LLC, and Second Chance Housing, a service provider that Nathan claims has nonprofit status.
Currently, among other properties, RMD Services 1, LLC, is managing and maintaining the Menlo Hotel and Ridge Hotel in Oakland for the Prize Group, LLC, a corporation owned by Singer. Singer also owns the Hotel Des Arts and Olympic Hotel in San Francisco.
According to records, 70 to 80 residents of the Ridge Hotel in Oakland have also filed suit against RMD Services for poor housing conditions at that hotel.
Singer appeared in U.S. District Court in Oakland on Thursday, January 20, for a detention hearing, after being charged with one count of solicitation of arson, which is also a federal felony.
Singer was released from jail on bail on the evening of January 20, after his passport was surrendered, in addition to his posting a $700,000 secured bond (secured by the defendants’ property). An additional $500,000 unsecured bond was posted by his wife Patricia Singer, and his mother Gloria Singer (as co-signers), on January 20, also as part of his bail.
Singer is a wealthy man who resides in the hills of Tiburon on Mark Terrace, in a four-bedroom home worth $2.1 million, with a swimming pool in the backyard.
Lynda Carson may be contacted at email@example.com