By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
When she landed back in the city, she had no place to live, so she turned to Craigslist. Eventually, she found an ad posted by a person who wanted a roommate who kept kosher. The two agreed to live together for three months. In early summer 2006, Best moved into the cushy apartment in a modern building on West End Avenue, on the Upper West Side. She was to pay $1,600 a month.
Trouble started within days, the housemate tells the Voice, when Best refused to give her a copy of her ID. Best had good reason to not want to show her ID. She had recently been released from prison, and the housemate hadn't known that.
The housemate told Best she could not live in the apartment without at least giving up a copy of her ID. Best refused and then took a rather drastic step, considering she was a tenant: She changed the locks. After the police got involved, the housemate hired David Brody and sued Best for nonpayment of rent. In July 2006, a judge dismissed the case but ordered Best to surrender the key. "I was vomiting on the sidewalk because I was so traumatized," the housemate tells the Voice.
After that debacle, Best moved into a neighboring building. But in 2009, she was again threatened with eviction. The landlord again hired attorney Brody. This time, the battle was over Best's Yorkshire terrier, Lexi, and the case went to court. Lexi's shrill barking, a neighbor testified, was "very loud, as if the dog was in pain." The neighbor complained that she feared getting bitten because Best allowed the dog to roam the hallways without a leash. The landlord, who claimed that the building was generally "dog-friendly," also alleged that Best allowed her dog to pee and poop in public areas. It was a messy case.
Best's lawyer in that eviction suit, Paul Finkelstein, says, "All I'll say on the record is: I represented her, and I believe she has problems." A judge wound up giving Best 10 days to get rid of the dog or she'd be evicted. She got rid of the dog. Lucky Lexi.
Clarence McGann had spent years working his way up in the City of New York Department of Corrections and was a captain at Rikers Island, earning a six-figure salary. He had a longtime girlfriend, Maria Torres, officials say. In 2002, Torres applied for Section 8 subsidies for a townhouse at 16 Doreen Drive, on Staten Island's north shore. Section 8 is a federal housing program that gives rental assistance to poor Americans, and on her application, Torres claimed that she had recently been homeless, officials say. She also stated that she lived alone with her two children, and she listed McGann as the landlord. That meant that the monthly subsidies for Torres's apartment were to go directly to McGann. If the city had known that he lived with her, his salary would have disqualified them for Section 8. A few years later, McGann bought a townhouse at 379 South Avenue, in the same general neighborhood, and the couple moved. Torres applied for Section 8 subsidies there, too.
During an annual inspection, a city housing inspector working for the Section 8 program knocked on their door, looking for Torres. He became curious when McGann, ostensibly the landlord, answered the door wearing only a bath towel.
Later, surveillance cameras caught the couple on video returning home with grocery bags, officials say. Another time, McGann requested a sick day from work to take care of his wife, Maria Torres. (This turned out to be a double lie: He was still married to another woman, though the two had been separated for some time.)
McGann and Torres were busted. Over six years, they had stolen $59,484, court records show. He was busted, but he still made out like a bandit. He retired on captain's pay the day before he was arrested, which means he still collects a city pension, officials tell the Voice.
Now a pensioned ex-caption, he pled not guilty, and the case went to trial. In court, McGann claimed that there were no hard and fast rules that said a landlord could not live in the house with his tenant. (McGann's lawyer says the two were not a couple.) McGann also said that the house was subdivided and that he lived in the basement. (It wasn't.) McGann, no longer a captain at Rikers, went casual: At one point, he wore an Adidas tracksuit to his trial. He was convicted of grand larceny and fraud on the facts, but was sentenced only to probation instead of serving jail time. He was ordered to pay the city back the money. Good thing he got his pension.
The Domestic-Violence Faker
Latonya Malone, 26, worked as a security guard at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center in Manhattan. A state employee since 2002, she earned a $35,000-a-year salary, so in 2007 she applied for a Section 8 apartment. Victims of domestic violence can point to their dire situations to get Section 8 subsidies, for which there's a huge waiting list. In support of her application, she included copies of an order of protection issued by the Bronx County Criminal Court and a domestic-violence incident report issued by the New York Police Department. According to Malone's paperwork, "John Brown had beaten her."