by Lynda Carson
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]n Oakland slum hotel owner was sentenced to 27 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken for his involvement in an arson plot to burn down the Menlo Hotel.
Richard Earl Singer, a Tiburon millionaire and the owner of the Menlo Hotel in Oakland, was sentenced to prison on August 31, 2011, after pleading guilty on June 22 to one count of solicitation to commit arson. The notorious slum hotel owner was sent to prison for hiring someone to burn down his hotel, and also was fined $60,000 and sentenced to an additional three-year period of supervised release.
Singer was arrested after federal authorities were tipped off about the arson plot. His scheme to burn down the Menlo Hotel was stopped after two informants contacted federal authorities and told them that Singer wanted to hire someone to burn down the hotel. One of the informants assisted federal authorities involved in the investigation.
According to federal officials, on Jan. 10, 2011, Singer attempted to hire someone to burn down the Hotel Menlo — a life-threatening act given that the residential hotel was occupied by tenants, and a restaurant and nail salon operated on the first floor of the seven-story building.
In his plea bargain, Singer admitted that he solicited others to burn down the Hotel Menlo, a low-income residential hotel he owned at 344 13th Street in Oakland.
Singer handed over a check for $1,500 so the arsonist could buy the materials needed to burn down the hotel, and he agreed to pay the arsonist an additional $63,500 about 48 hours after the hotel was burned down. Federal officials said that Singer wanted to collect a maximum insurance payment.
Singer owns two slum hotels in downtown Oakland – the Hotel Menlo and the Ridge Hotel – and both SRO hotels are facing lawsuits charging that the buildings are uninhabitable. Singer was almost unbelievably callous in using the hotel’s substandard code violations as a strategic asset in the arson-for-hire plot. According to court documents, Singer told the informant that he tried to hire to torch the building that since there were no fire alarms or fire escapes in the hotel, the arson plot would be easier to carry out. He also said that false alarms elsewhere could be called in to prevent the fire department from arriving in time.
A few days before Singer was sentenced, former Menlo Hotel resident Wade Mcallister said, “I lived at the Menlo Hotel for three years, and was the initiator of a lawsuit against Richard Singer and the Menlo Hotel. I believe that he placed my life and the lives of other tenants at risk and in serious danger, and I hope that justice is served. I hope they give him life in prison for his malicious actions.”
Camellia Rougeaux, a former employee of Singer at the Menlo Hotel and Ridge Hotel in Oakland, said, “Richard Singer is as crooked as a three-dollar bill. I think that he should get the maximum sentence, and be forced to volunteer with low-income individuals because he does not care about people, and is only out to make money.”
According to a federal affidavit dated Jan. 13, 2011, two people informed federal authorities about Singer’s involvement in an arson plot. One of the informants used to work for the management company operating the Menlo Hotel for Singer.
The affidavit also states that Samuel Manning, the informant who worked at the Menlo Hotel, revealed to federal authorities that he is currently facing charges for embezzling funds from the Girl Scouts in Monterey County. A police report reflects allegations by the Girl Scouts of overpayment of payroll checks for nearly $54,000, and unauthorized credit charges of approximately $1,800, according to the affidavit.
A press release from the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, revealed that Manning, their former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), is facing charges for embezzling more than $50,000 during his employment with the Girl Scouts.
Earlier, on April 2, 2010, Curtis Bleyle of Bleyle Elevator, Inc., wrote to the owners of the Menlo Hotel, threatening to cancel all further services because the elevators were being operated in an unsafe manner at the hotel. The letter from Bleyle Elevator was sent to Singer, the owner of the Menlo, and also to Samuel Manning, Ryan Nathan, and Joel McCall of the Menlo’s management company, RMD Services.
Also, Singer faces a class action lawsuit from more than 50 residents of the Ridge Hotel, and has been sued by many residents at the Menlo Hotel for operating both hotels in slum-like conditions.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com