Friday 22 April 2011

A tenant to avoid

No matter what community you live in, you will always find deadbeats who want to rip you off. Landlords are faced with them on occasion if they don’t take proper care in determining if the prospective tenant who wants to rent their house or apartment is honest or dishonest.

The first thing a landlord should do is check out the references carefully. Keep in mind that dishonest tenants will give the names of their friends as former landlords and even give their names of their friends as employment references even though the prospective tenant has been evicted many times for non payment of rent and is still unemployed.

What follows is the story of a tenant who is renown in Canada and the United States as being a real deadbeat tenant. He goes by the name of Jordan Joseph however I don’t know if that is his real name. He said in an interview that his birth name is Tovarance Mensah.

He is a self-described financial guru who brags that he is a “money shaman” and that he is a stock trader and Internet entrepreneur. He also says that he is the president of an online currency exchange company called 144fx. He also describes to online viewers how his unique financial strategies have raised him from the streets of New York to a life of southern California excess.

In his video, a camera is following him as he saunters past a fleet of luxury cars parked on the lush grounds of a gated California estate. Wearing a black pinstripe suit and dark sunglasses, the self-styled stock trader and Internet entrepreneur points to his Lamborghini Superleggera and his Mercedes.

It’s called hype. I call it bullshit. He doesn’t own the estate or the vehicles. What he is trying to do is convince those people who want to invest their money with him that they too can live in a life of luxury like he does if they trust him and his judgment with respect to their investments.

Trust me. You would never want to live in the manner he does. A continent away in Toronto, a very different portrait of Joseph appeared in the third week of April 2011. He stood in front of a public storage unit filled with his scattered belongings such as cheap-looking furniture, boxes of clothing and a vacuum cleaner which were among items placed there by a former landlord who forcibly evicted him earlier in April. It wasn’t the first time this deadbeat was evicted.

Since August, 2010, Joseph, along with his wife and teenage daughter, have been removed from three successive rental homes by landlords who say he stiffed them on rent, misrepresented himself on rental documents and, in two cases, left the homes damaged.

Of the roughly 75,000 landlord-tenant disputes launched each year in Ontario, this is among the most intriguing and explosive in recent memory, thanks in large part to the enigmatic flamboyance of the man at the centre of the controversy.

Nick Kerkez, a Toronto contractor who rented Joseph a new Etobicoke home last month said,“I was thinking this guy was wealthy.” That was his belief until he discovered Joseph’s rent cheques were linked to a bank account with only a $3 balance.

Joseph vigorously denies the allegations from all three landlords. He says he’s a millionaire more than capable of paying his rent and that he will spare no expense in seeking redress. He plans lawsuits and public protests, including commissioning a Los Angeles-produced song about his complaints and hiring placard-carrying protesters. “Shock and awe. That’s what it’s going to be like,” he declared this week, adding that he’s flown three “security guys” from Los Angeles to join him in Toronto. “I’m coming so hard it’s ridiculous. If (they) want to play like that, we’ll play a war of financial attrition.”

Give me a break. If this deadbeat has that much money to spend, why was he evicted from three homes for non-payment of rent?

The self-described financial guru lists his first name as “Goodgracious” in public records and has the letters “GG” branded (not tattooed) into his right arm. On the websites for 144fx, Joseph refers to himself as “the world’s foremost financial shaman and currency money king. I am just like a bridge over troubled water for bankers, traders, and analysts everywhere. I am a friend to the lost souls. A teacher. A leader. A mystic. Basically, a man of the future, and a master of reality. Let me guide you. Let me show you the way.”

The bridge he claims he has built is actually supported by quicksand and is sinking deeper and deeper as he continues to open his mouth.

His Toronto landlords say he boasted of his wealth and business affiliations with music stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z, all while passing bad cheques, filling his units with furniture he picked from the garbage and driving a beat-up Mazda pick-up truck rather than Lamborghinis or Range Rovers.

Ontario corporate registration documents show “Goodgracious (Jordan) Joseph” is the 38-year-old president of Maxum Marketing, a holding company involved in investments and acquisitions. It was registered in February of this year.

Joseph’s rental application for Kerkez’s house last month claimed his income is $18,000 a month. He listed his automobile as being a 2004 Bentley GT. He can’t even afford to buy the spare wheel of such a car.

Joseph says “Those cars (in the online videos) are all mine,”, citing six luxury vehicles currently in California. “My income comes from a variety of sources. During the financial crisis I sold the hell out of the British pound and the Euro. I made money.” Joseph has also registered as a principal in a new Ontario corporation called BFX Positive Inc. which he says will be “acquiring small foreign exchange outfits in Toronto.” I need another break. This time I am going to regurgitate in the toilet.

To prospective landlords in Toronto, Joseph’s financial pedigree made him the perfect tenant. Damn fools, the lot of them. They were so gullible, I am sure I could have sold them the Eifel Tower in Paris.

In August 2010, he responded to a Craigslist ad and moved his family into a two-bedroom unit above retail shops in Little Italy in Toronto on a short-term sublet agreement. The woman landlady said that Joseph spoke of his California mansion and wealth when he rented her place. Joseph told her that he sold his Pasadena home to enrol his daughter in ballet school in Toronto. The couple was also planning to send their daughter to Branksome Hall, a private girl’s school where annual tuition costs about $25,000.

Now the gullible landlady was warned in advance that something was a bit fishy. In her words, she later said to the deadbeat, “It was all a bit odd that if you have this mansion in California, why are you putting your child in school in Toronto? It doesn’t add up.” But she didn’t press further. After all, she concluded that it was their business and not hers.

That is where she was wrong. It was her business. The spark that should have lit up her brain was the fact that he wanted to live in a cheap unit when he supposedly was a millionaire. Then she began to feel the pain of her foolishness. She said that Joseph paid $100 up front with promises of more. Later Joseph kept saying things like, ‘My bank transfers didn’t come through.’ It went like that day to day. After two weeks of repeated requests for payment, she says she demanded that the couple and their daughter to leave.

The landlady said, “They very begrudgingly left without paying me (the full rent). It did get heated. He said how dare I treat them that way. It’s really twisted. He’s taking advantage of people and somehow, in his mind, he’s being done wrong. It was scary in the end getting them out of there.” She finally got smart but it was too late.

Joseph dismissed her allegations, saying that the woman suddenly asked him and his family to leave before their leased apartment was ready for possession. “We don’t owe her a penny,” he says. “I’m a millionaire, sir. I don’t have to not pay somebody a little bit of money. The issue I’m encountering is people not keeping their word.” If his statement could be visualized as material substance, it would look like hog wash.

Joseph’s next address was a $3,000-a-month Lakeshore Avenue condo owned by Tushar Das, a Toronto businessman who decided to rent out his new unit last summer. The Josephs were the condo’s first occupants.

“I got a frantic call from my agent saying they needed to move in early,” Das recalls. “The story was that they had to suddenly move out of where they were.”

Joseph gave Das’s agent a cheque for the first month’s rent but asked to provide the last month’s rent in two installments, Das says. “They said bank accounts were moving over and they didn’t have cheques. Das was initially impressed with Joseph’s stories of working as a trader representing prestigious firms, including Goldman Sachs, and having a team of traders around the world reporting to him.
Stupid me, I took it at face value.” Yes, he was stupid. He didn’t check out this deadbeats background. If he had, he wouldn’t be out the money.

But inconsistencies quickly emerged. He said, “I got another frantic call from my agent saying their first month’s cheque just bounced.”

Joseph sorted that out with a certified cheque. Then, the September and October cheques bounced, says Das. Over the next six months, cheques bounced each month. Repeated requests for payment were ignored, delayed and eventually denied, he says. By January, 2011, the outstanding rent owed by Joseph was $12,000.

Joseph says he ceased paying rent because Das had broken his commitment to furnish the new unit. While some furniture was provided, a television, dining room chairs and table and bathroom fixtures never arrived, he says. “I was withholding the rent because they refused to fully furnish the unit as agreed.”

The dispute ended up before the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. It imposed a five-per-cent rent abatement for the missing furniture but upheld a formal eviction order against Joseph and ordered him to pay Das more than $9,000, along with nearly $100 a day between Feb. 9 and the date he moved out. Meanwhile, it took until March 21 for a sheriff to evict Joseph and his family from the premises.

After removing his belongings from the unit, Joseph turned to Das, who was looking on in the hallway, and told him he had a cheque with the outstanding rent money. “He turns to me and goes, ‘You can kiss my ass for the money.’ Totally beyond belief.”

None of the outstanding rent money Joseph was ordered to pay by the Landlord and Tenant Board has been received, says Das.

“There is no employer to garnish. All you can do is garnish bank accounts and you have to know the exact name, bank branch and account. When someone is operating under aliases like this, it’s impossible.”

Joseph is unrepentant. He said, “I’m not saying that he isn’t owed. I’m not denying that. But it’s a principle matter. . . I’m not going to pay him a goddamn dime.” It’s obvious he doesn’t have the money.

Days after being evicted by Das, Joseph arrived on the doorstep of a newly built, million-dollar Etobicoke home. (suburb of Toronto) Kerkez, a general contractor who demolished the previous building and built a luxurious, modern home, was initially impressed with his first tenant. “He said he represents Jay-Z and Beyoncé in their foreign financial currency transactions. It all seemed pretty interesting. He even approached me about investing with the company and I was thinking about doing it.” Joseph says that while he never claimed to know Beyoncé, he does know Jay-Z, along with a number of other L.A.-based celebrities.

Both men agree that Joseph successfully paid first and last month’s rent — a total of about $7,000 — and provided a series of post-dated cheques.

But Kerkez quickly began to doubt Joseph’s claims of a music-star lifestyle. There was the beat-up Mazda pick-up in the driveway. And the Spartan furniture — a basic kitchen table and two chairs, a modest dresser and bed — and piles of clothing that “looked like they were from Goodwill.”

Then Kerkez finally got information from his real estate agent, The agent discovered that Joseph had been removed from his two previous residences for alleged non-payment. This is where Kerkez made his blunder. He moved the deadbeat and his family into the million dollar home without first doing the proper investigation of the deadbeat’s past.

Kerkez visited Joseph’s bank branch to investigate the post-dated rent cheques for the $3,200-a-month home. He then discovered just how foolish he had been. “(The teller) said the most amount of money this account has seen is $25. The current balance is $3. That’s when I snapped. I didn’t move for two days off my sofa. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was flabbergasted.”
Joseph, who acknowledges the account was short of funds, says he was planning to transfer money into it to cover the rent cheques. Of course he was. If you believe that crap, can I still interest you in buying the Eifel Tower?

Desperate to evict Joseph without waiting months for a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing, Kerkez took dramatic action: When Joseph was out for the day on April 1, the landlord moved his tenant’s belongings and changed the lock. He was breaking the law when he did that. A landlord in Ontario cannot evict a tenant without first getting permission from the Tribunal and even then, only a sheriff’s officer can evict the tenant.

Since evicting Joseph, Kerkez’s cell phone has been filling with a steady stream of text messages from his former tenant. They threaten to take back possession of the house and demand as much as $30,000 in compensation for damage to his belongings and the costs of living in a hotel.

One reads: “I’m gonna blow this shit up brotha. I’m tired of this crap. Just get a good lawyer. . . I have budgeted 80k to set everything straight. Watch this.” This deadbeat is clearly a nut case. As you may have guessed, the deadbeat is a black man. Many black people are fine tenants. I know because I rented a room to one and he was a great tenant. But Mr. Joseph is a landlord’s nightmare.

Last Saturday, Kerkez and Joseph had a tense confrontation outside the rental house. They had another showdown on Wednesday, this time in a Landlord and Tenant Board hearing. “I’m going to be filing a (civil) proceeding against the landlord but I’m not seeking possession (of Kerkez’s house),” Joseph told the chairwoman in withdrawing his Landlord-Tenant claim.

When Kerkez’s paralegal intervened, Joseph lost patience. “If you’re going to start being an idiot. . . ” Joseph said before being warned by the chairwoman to watch his language. Anthony Kassam, the paralegal, told the hearing that there’s no need for “showboating.” “It’s not showboating,” Joseph fired back. “I just want my money.” What money is he speaking of?

Joseph says his wife and 14-year-old daughter have temporarily moved to New York while he lives in a hotel and searches for a new home. He says he’s filed a complaint with police against Kerkez over the eviction. And he says that his plans for a public campaign against his former landlords and their agents will unfold “very soon.”

No matter how desperate you are to find a good tenant for the room, apartment or house you wish to rent out, do your homework. If you don’t, you might end up with the likes of this deadbeat scumbag Jordan Joseph or whatever his name is as a tenant. When that happens, you will pay a great deal of money to evict him.

Cervantes said it best in his novel, Don Quizoti, “Where they expected bacon, they met with broken bones.”

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