City’s ‘Worst’ Slumlord Held by FBI in East
The man described by Los Angeles authorities as the city’s worst slumlord, who disappeared seven months ago before he was to begin a 90-day jail sentence, was arrested Wednesday in New Jersey by the FBI, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office announced.
Vijaynard Sharma, 41, who reportedly received as much as $90,000 a month from tenants who lived in buildings plagued with rats, bad plumbing, broken windows and faulty wiring, is being held on a federal no-bail warrant in Gloucester County, N.J., said City Atty. James K. Hahn.
An immigrant from the Fiji Islands who once owned as many as 18 residential hotels and apartment buildings in Los Angeles, Sharma dropped out of sight last Jan. 15 shortly before he was to begin serving a jail sentence for a probation violation. He was cited after investigators discovered serious fire code violations at his 167-room Cameo Hotel in the Westlake District after a suspected arson fire last April.
Faces 20-Month Sentence
Sharma also faces a 20-month jail sentence and a $153,000 fine in a separate case in which he was convicted of 112 misdemeanor housing code violations in five residential buildings. Sharma was allowed to remain free on $500,000 bond while he appealed the sentence.
In addition, the real estate investor is a defendant in eight other slum-related cases pending in Los Angeles Municipal Court, said Hahn, who once described Sharma as the “worst slumlord” in Los Angeles.
The circumstances of Sharma’s arrest were not immediately known, although Hahn’s office said Sharma was picked up in Cherry Hill, N.J., and that he had been under surveillance by the FBI. The FBI was brought into the case last January when city prosecutors began to suspect that Sharma had fled the state to avoid prosecution.
Deputy City Atty. Stephanie Sautner, who heads the office’s Housing Enforcement Section, said officials at the Gloucester County Jail told her Wednesday that Sharma has waived an extradition hearing. “He just wants this to be over,” Sautner said.
After his disappearance, a series of judges issued a total of four warrants for his arrest.
Prosecutors said that Sharma sold at least 10 of his Los Angeles properties last December, and that he may have sold the remaining eight buildings since then.
The state arrest warrants issued for Sharma carry a combined bail of $2.65 million, Hahn said. The no-bail federal warrant was issued Feb. 1 by U.S. Magistrate Volney Brown after U.S. Atty. Robert Bonner charged Sharma with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.