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Slumlord Gets Jail Term for Violating House Arrest

Times Staff Writer

A convicted harbor area slumlord who had been confined to one of his San Pedro apartments for four months must now serve a minimum of 45 days in jail for violating his house arrest.

Since Jan. 17, Martin Cantor, 39, of Rancho Palos Verdes, was supposed to be spending his nights and weekends in a small apartment at 2319 S. Pacific Ave.--a building in which Los Angeles County health officials found cockroaches, rats, and “a hole the size of a bathtub, filled with sewage water,” according to the city attorney who prosecuted Cantor.

But Cantor, who has been permitted to leave the apartment during the week only to go to work at the liquor store his father owns in Torrance, admitted Wednesday in San Pedro Municipal Court that he violated the court’s order by going to work on March 4, a Saturday.

An electronic sensor attached to Cantor’s ankle detected him leaving the apartment that morning, and authorities said he told an employee of Electronic Supervision Services, the private company that is monitoring his movements, that it had been an emergency.

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The company alerted the court. Company officials also said that Cantor had done grocery shopping and tended to his laundry while under their supervision.

“You must understand,” Judge Roy Ferkich told Cantor Wednesday, “that there is no emergency that will allow you to go to your business on Saturdays or Sundays. . . . If you were spending this time in county jail, they wouldn’t let you out to do any grocery shopping or tend to an emergency.”

Under the terms of Ferkich’s order, Cantor--who says he is trying to sell his property--is to spend an additional 30 days under house arrest.

County Jail Sentence

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If he does sell the property, or if he repairs it, he will serve 45 days in the Los Angeles County jail--with no provision for early release, Ferkich said. Otherwise he will spend 180 days in jail.

This is at least the second time that Cantor had been found in violation of a court order. His initial house-arrest sentence was for violating his probation in a case involving three houses in Wilmington in which county health officials also found vermin and other maintenance problems.

“He deserves a harsher penalty in my opinion,” Deputy City Atty. Juana Wedman said after Wednesday’s hearing, “but given that slum landlords are very rarely, if ever, sentenced to jail, I am satisfied.”

Said Cantor’s lawyer, Michael Stephenson: “Overall, I think that under the circumstances, it was a fair disposition of the matter.”

Cantor, who agreed to the sentence in negotiations with Wedman, would not comment on the judge’s ruling.

However, he said in interviews last month that he is getting out of the landlord business. He has already sold the Wilmington properties to developer David Shaw, who says he intends to renovate them. And Cantor said Wednesday that the San Pedro apartment house is in escrow.

Blamed His Tenants

Also in earlier interviews, Cantor blamed his problems on his tenants’ sloppy housekeeping. “Spraying and poison won’t do the job if you leave out food and trash in your apartment,” he said. “These people are feeding these pests.”

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Four of his tenants had been subpoenaed to appear at Wednesday’s proceedings but they did not testify because of the sentencing agreement. They were accompanied by a counselor from the Toberman Settlement House, which assists low-income people in the San Pedro area, and a public interest lawyer. The lawyer, David Salisbury, is representing the tenants in civil cases in which they contend that Cantor illegally tried to evict them by beginning eviction proceedings without their knowledge.

As they had in earlier interviews, the tenants said Wednesday that they are not to blame, and that conditions at their building in San Pedro are deplorable.

One tenant, Josephine Shields, brought with her a plastic bag containing what she called “evidence for the court"--two dead mice in roach-covered traps. She said she caught them in her apartment Tuesday night.

In an interview last month, Shields, who pays $475 a month for a bachelor apartment, said: “It’s bad. I have mice, roaches. The more I spray, the more the roaches come. It’s just messed up. The water was leaking under my sink. The toilet is messed up. . . . My face bowl in the bathroom hasn’t been working since I moved here.”

She said Wednesday that nothing had changed since then.


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