A Northeast Washington builder was arrested by D.C. police yesterday and charged with 296 criminal violations of the District's housing code, city officials said.
Dixon A. Oladele, who has paid more than $200,000 in fines to the city's regulatory agency since 2000, was taken into custody when he turned himself in at the 6th District police station about 9:30 a.m. If he is convicted on all charges, Oladele could face 327 days in jail and $59,900 in fines, according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.
The charges, all misdemeanors, relate to a single-family house at 245 56th St. NE. They include 294 counts of "erecting a building without a permit," each count representing a separate day that construction continued. Oladele also was charged with one count each of performing construction in violation of a stop-work order and making a false statement to obtain a permit, the attorney's general office said.
Oladele was arraigned late yesterday by Superior Court Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell, who released the builder on a $50,000 unsecured bond. The judge ordered Oladele "not to erect, build or construct any properties" in the District without first obtaining a building permit from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, according to Traci L. Hughes, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
Oladele did not return a telephone call. His attorney, Frederick A. Douglas, said he did not know what charges had been filed against his client.
"I haven't seen the charges as of yet, so I can't comment on whether the charges have been covered by previous fines," Douglas said. "This may well be a situation where he has been fined for violations and he's paid the fines."
Inspectors have issued 39 citations to the builder since November 2000, city records show. Oladele has said he has paid more than $215,000 in fines on six properties, including one that has been sold.
City Administrator Robert C. Bobb called Oladele "one of the worst offenders" of housing code regulations in the city.
"I think it sends a very important message that you can't do business without the appropriate permits in the District of Columbia," Bobb said.
Regulatory officials said they pursued a criminal case against Oladele because he continued to perform construction work without the proper permits.
Current and former city officials said that it is uncommon for a contractor to begin construction without permits and to continue to work on a project after a stop-work order has been issued.
"He is an exception to the rule," said Denzil Noble, administrator of the Building and Land Regulation Administration at the regulatory agency. "Generally, most contractors, once they're cited, come into compliance."
Residents in the Deanwood community, where Oladele has said he started building houses in 1992, said his properties have been a public nuisance.
The city does not inspect construction work to see if it meets city code until after permits are issued, city officials said. Noble said the city will not force Oladele to demolish his unfinished houses if he can get a certified engineer to verify that the properties meet city code.
John Frye, a Ward 7 activist who repeatedly complained about Oladele's lack of building permits, said he was pleased that the city took action.
"What's next?" Frye asked. "The city needs to strengthen the law to deter people from doing this type of activity."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.