4 Ex-Tenants Happy as Slumlord’s Check Reverses Its Bounce

Times Staff Writer

More than three months after he promised his former tenants $16,000 in relocation fees, and a week after he gave them a check that bounced, a convicted San Pedro slumlord has finally paid up.

The Monday payment was a last-minute maneuver by landlord Martin Cantor, who had a new check delivered to a lawyer for the tenants just 30 minutes before a San Pedro Municipal Court judge was to consider stiffening his 45-day jail sentence.

In light of the payment, which has already been converted into a cashier’s check, Judge Roy Ferkich delayed consideration of a tougher jail term until Wednesday.

Cantor’s former tenants--who celebrated victory last week only to find out that the check they received was worthless--seemed happy but subdued after learning that a new, valid check had been issued.


“We’re tired now,” said Josephine Shields, one of four tenants who are to receive $4,000 each. “It gets to a point where you just get tired.”

Said their lawyer, David Salisbury of the Long Beach Legal Aid Foundation: “You get tired of getting up and getting to a point where you get smashed down again.”

No Court Appearance

Neither Cantor nor his lawyer appeared in court Monday. In a telephone interview, lawyer Michael Stephenson said he believes his client has “fulfilled his obligations.”


As to whether he will argue Wednesday that Cantor’s sentence should not be lengthened, Stephenson said, “I’ll just have to meet that when it comes.”

Cantor’s battle with the tenants began last year, when they complained to city health inspectors about conditions at their San Pedro apartment building. Inspectors found cockroaches, rats, a leaky roof, faulty wiring and, according to the city attorney who prosecuted Cantor, “a hole the size of a bathtub filled with sewage water,” outside the building.

As a result, Cantor was found in violation of his probation on a previous slumlord conviction. He was ordered to spend five months under house arrest in one of his San Pedro apartments.

In March, when Cantor violated the terms of the house arrest by going to work when he was not permitted to, Ferkich sentenced him to a maximum of six months in jail but told Cantor he would suspend all but 45 days of the sentence if he sold his building and paid his tenants relocation assistance.


Promises $4,000 Each

After that decision, Cantor asked his tenants to move and promised them $4,000 each if they would vacate the building immediately so that he could sell it. They moved out, expecting to be paid the following day.

But it took until a sentencing hearing last Tuesday for Cantor’s lawyer to turn over a check. At that time, Ferkich reduced the sentence, as he had promised.

By Friday, when it became apparent that the check was not valid, Ferkich issued a warrant for Cantor’s arrest and threatened to reinstate the suspended portion of the sentence.


Deputy City Atty. Juana V. Webman, who prosecuted Cantor, said she is pleased that the money has been paid and, as a result, will probably ask for the sentence to be extended, although not for the full six months.

“He came up with the money today--late, but he came up with it,” Webman said. “That is a very positive statement.”