Milwaukee suing south-side landlord for drug houses

Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 15, 2018

The city of Milwaukee has filed a lawsuit against a south-side landlord for allegedly knowingly operating several drug houses.

The Milwaukee city attorney's office said the landlord owns more than two dozen rental properties in Milwaukee. Around half of them have been designated as nuisance, drug houses that they plan to take away from her.

Several Milwaukee aldermen held a news conference Thursday morning right in front of what police have found to be a long-time drug house on South 5th Place. Alderman Bob Donovan pins the blame on the landlord of the 2-story complex.

"We do believe she was well aware of the activity and condoned the activity at these properties," said Donovan.

Court records show a dozen of Leticia Gomez's properties have been used to deliver, manufacture and sell a number of drugs including marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine since 2012.

"This particular effort originated from complaints from citizens," Donovan said.

Vanessa Gomez-Arias is the daughter of the landlord cited in the lawsuit and manages these properties.

"This area is bad enough, I feel that I should not be targeted," Gomez-Arias said. "It's just not fair."

Gomez-Arias claims she has been working with the city, but admits, she doesn't feel safe coming to her properties to fix them up and check on problem tenants.

"There has to be more laws in place to help landlords as well," she said. "You can't just target one person in the whole city and put them on blast."

Gomez-Arias said she's tried to sell these properties.

"Anyone in their right mind would not buy them," she said. 

If the city wins the case, that won't even be an option.

"It's going to be sold, but the money is not going to the owners of these properties, the money is going to go to our anti-drug fighting activities," said Alderman Tony Zielinski.

Aldermen said this lawsuit is just the beginning. They plan to target landlords of drug houses city-wide.