Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay issued a temporary injunction Thursday preventing landlord Mohammad Choudry from purchasing additional homes until a lawsuit filed against him is resolved.
The City of Milwaukee seeks a judgement against Choudry for over $1.25 million, which includes $400,000 in delinquent property taxes and $850,000 in damages for criminal racketeering.
Judge Sosnay refused to adjourn Thursday's proceedings after Choudry admitted he came to court unprepared.
Choudry didn't have much to say when prosecutors asked him about thousands of dollars in delinquent taxes.
"I choose not to answer that question and use my 5th amendment rights," Choudry said.
Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker is the lead prosecutor on the case.
"Every time Mr. Choudry doesn't pay his taxes, that makes the other taxpayers in the city cover his losses," Decker said.
In a lawsuit filed last month, Decker said Choudry owes more than $426,315 in taxes from homes he purchased at sheriff's auction sales. Those homes would then be "flipped" and rented out to tenants. However, many of the homes rented out have been deemed "unlivable" or "unsanitary" according to the Department of Neighborhood Services.
"We issue an order to the owner of the property and give them reasonable time to make repairs," Erica Lewandowski with the Department of Neighborhood Services said.
According to prosecutors, Choudry didn't seem too interested in making repairs.
"Mr. Choudry has caused his rental properties to become a public nuisance because he has been convicted 82 times in municipal court of property-related ordinance violations and has been issued almost 700 orders from the Department of Neighborhood Services which identify 3,000 municipal code violations," the City Attorney's Office said in a statement.
"It takes a lot of effort and research to unravel the mess Mr. Choudry creates," Decker added.
Decker says in more than three dozen cases where Choudry purchased homes at auctions, he failed to transfer deeds into his name to avoid paying property taxes.
Lisa Taylor testified her home was foreclosed on and sold to Choudry who didn't transfer the deed. When taxes became delinquent, the City came after her!
"I received statements that I would not be able to register my car and that they would withhold my taxes," Taylor said on the stand.
The Municipal Court also said she owed $2,000 in fines and issued a warrant.
Judge Sosnay said the allegations over Choudry's business practices are concerning and decided to issue a temporary injunction which bans Choudry from acquiring new properties at auctions. The judge also temporarily banned Choudry from collecting additional rent or managing his properties. Those responsibilities have now been turned over to a city worker until this lawsuit is resolved.
After court, we attempted to get Choudry's side of the story. Choudry ignored our questions and walked out of the courthouse without providing a comment.
Taylor's warrant was eventually fixed after she contacted Decker.
Choudry is due back in court next month.
Although Choudry's case is being handled in civil court, he could eventually face criminal racketeering charges.
If you rent a property owned by Choudry, you're encouraged to contact the City Attorney's Office at 286-2601.