Fake red-tag led to illegal Oakland eviction, city says

The City of Oakland is suing the owners of a home who allegedly slapped it with a fake red-tag notice to evict tenants despite a moratorium because of the coronavirus.

Tenants found a realistic-looking notice outside their home on Congress Avenue in East Oakland late last month.

It looked real enough. The notice claimed the home in the Maxwell Park neighborhood was unsafe because of foundation damage, wood rot and plumbing issues.

Problem was, it was all bogus.

"A fake red tag was put on this property," said Maria Bee, an Oakland chief assistant city attorney.

It even had the name of a real city inspector.

"He did not issue this red tag," Bee said. "He was working remotely that day. So it’s a fraudulent red tag to force these families out of their homes at this very vulnerable time."

Among those living here was a woman who was about to give birth.

The City of Oakland has filed a lawsuit against the property owners who officials say traumatized their tenants.

"They had a moving company come to the home and remove the tenants' possessions, and by that, I mean all of their possessions," Bee said.

A neighbor who didn’t want to go on camera told KTVU she saw the tenants getting kicked out.

"He went in their house, loaded all their stuff on there," she said, adding, "I don’t think it was right to do."

Tenants say they’ve since been allowed to stay and their belongings have been returned. But the city says the damage has been done, and that this ordeal happened despite a moratorium on evictions because of the coronavirus.

"This behavior is shocking at any time," Bee said. "But it's particularly shocking during this COVID-19 crisis that we're in."

Named in the lawsuit are Afamefuna Odiwe and his sister, Anwulika Odiwe, as well as a moving company and a master tenant.

KTVU reached the sister by phone. She said, "I think the city ought to get its facts straight. My response to the allegations is I think you're misinformed. That's my only response."

The city is asking for a restraining order barring the property owners from any further harassment of the tenants.