Palo Alto landlord accused of damaging tenants' property so they'd move

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Palo Alto landlord and his son are accused of going to extreme measures to force out their tenants with rent control.

In one incident, they're accused of breaking car windows.

"By coincidence, the crime that was happening correlated directly to the apartments that were under rent control," tenant John Small said.

Small is one of several tenants who believe they were victims of their own landlord. His car was keyed and others had their windows broken, they say, by a BB gun.

"We thought it was like an angry neighbor or, you know, some sort of neighborhood kids. Now, that sheds a new light on what it might have been," tenant Cara Diehl said.

The San Mateo County DA says the owner of Stanford Garden, Nemat Malek Salehi, damaged tenants' cars and other property to get them to move out so he could charge new tenants higher rent.

"We think that's truly taking advantage of our people who need that rent control, so that's why we reacted so strongly and filed felony charges," DA Steve Wagstaffe said.

The owner's son, Auria Malek Salehi, is facing a misdemeanor charge for trying to dissuade a witness from cooperating with the criminal investigation against his dad.

ABC7 News spoke with Nemat and his attorney on the phone. They said they had no comment at this time.

Tenants, on the other hand, have plenty to say.

"I'm glad that finally justice is served for people that are here paying their rent and want to live peacefully," Small said.

Nemat is scheduled to be in court on Wednesday. The son's trial date has already been set for March 20.

UPDATE: Charges were dismissed against Maleksalehi on July 31, 2017 due to insufficient evidence. He issued the following statement on Monday:

"After a thorough review of the facts, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office moved to dismiss the case against me citing insufficient evidence. The Superior Court dismissed the case and all criminal proceedings were concluded in my favor. From the very start, I have maintained that the allegation against me was unfounded. The prosecutor's decision today makes it clear that that my initial attempt to make amends to our tenants was misconstrued. My only intention was to make things right. I look forward to rebuilding relationships with our tenants and remain committed to treating all of our tenants fairly, with dignity and respect."
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