22 Jun 2022
A lettings agency used violence, vandalism and power black outs to extort and illegally evict tenants, a court has heard.
One tenant was doused in petrol and had his teeth smashed by a gang of 10 while another was booted out after landlords pinned a bag of white powder on her, it is alleged.
Residents are said to have discovered their toilets smashed, locks broken, keys taken and belongings missing, after returning to their Cliftonville apartments.
Sohila Tamiz, Pedram Tamiz, Kasem El Darrat and Adam McChesney have gone on trial at Canterbury Crown Court this week.
They deny 16 charges related to conspiring to unlawfully evict, between 2007-2021.
Working together, they are said to have plotted against 26 residents living in flats in Athelstan Road, prosecutors said.
The court heard Sohila, 66, and Pedram, 47, demanded rent from Shirleyann Hamdi when none was due, and demanded she vacate her home.
The duo also told Jennifer Duffy to stump up undue rent and then removed locks and took her belongings from the property, prosecutor Michael Polak told jurors.
Giving evidence Ms Duffy told jurors she handed Sohila £1,600 for a month’s rent and deposit before the situation quickly turned “tense.”
“Sohila and Pedram knocked on the door and said they had found a white bag of powder.
“We thought nothing of it because it wasn’t ours, and that’s when it all started.
“Sohila rang me demanding rent but my rent wasn’t due just yet.”
She told jurors when she refused to hand over money and Sohila said: “You need to come and get your stuff and get out.”
She said when she returned with her friend Debra, Sohila and two men “tried getting us out”
“They took the locks off the front door,” she said.
“Were you being asked to leave you flat?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“It was all shouting and screaming.”
“How did you feel,” the prosecutor continued.
“Scared,” she said.
Ms Duffy told how, after a scuffle, her partner wedged the door shut with a metal bar and smeared shampoo on the floor, so intruders would slip.
She told how Thanet District Council the next day advised her to find alternative accommodation.
But on returning to the flat her furniture and belongings had disappeared, she said.
Asked if she was given her deposit back, she said: “No.”
Sohila also allegedly conspired to unlawfully evict Julie Box-Beaumont and Stephen Dale from another home on the road.
The court heard yesterday Sohila “persistently withdrew services” from another resident, Hayley Griffiths, including taking the property’s key and sabotaging the electricity supply.
She is also alleged to have damaged the toilet and acted “in a menacing manner and demanding that they leave,” prosecutors said.
Sohila also stands accused of conspiring to burgle two properties where tenants lived.
In a separate alleged incident, 10 men barged into Carl Hopkins’ home, doused him in petrol and beat him, causing the loss of three teeth, Mr Polak told jurors.
The next day Mr Hopkins’ locks had been changed, forcing him to live in an abandoned caravan, the prosecution said.
El Darrat, 53, and McChesney, 39, also face charges of conspiring to interfere with the peace or comfort of the occupier.
In total, residents in 10 properties were subjected to breaches of the Protection of Eviction Act, with many illegally evicted, prosecutors said.
Sohila and Pedram, both of Flint Lane, Lenham, alongside El Darrat, of Athelstan Road and McChesney, of Gloucester Avenue, Margate, all face charges of conspiracy to unlawfully evict.
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