Prince George's County Sheriff James Aluisi yesterday sent a letter warning the management of a Hillside apartment complex not to use the sheriff's department as a ploy in forcing residents to pay late rents. The letter followed complaints from residents who said they had been threatened that a sheriff's deputy was coming to evict them.
In the letter mailed to Monocle Management President Loren M. Simkowitz of Bethesda, Aluisi said, "I will not tolerate the misappropriation of the name of this Department, Deputies of this Department, nor myself to induce your tenants to satisfy claims which you might have against them."
The letter stemmed from "15 to 20" calls the department received Wednesday from upset residents of Ashford Square Apartments at 1400 Nova Ave., in Hillside, sheriff's spokesman Irv Smith said yesterday.
"They said they had gotten a letter that a deputy of ours, who was named in the letter, was going to come out to evict them that afternoon for not paying their rent," Smith said. "We checked and there were no eviction notices, nothing issued by a court of law, and our deputy had nothing to do with it . . . . It seemed to be a case of using the name of the sheriff to scare people."
Simkowitz said, however, that one of his agents had sent the residents a routine warning of eviction. He said he knew nothing about threats using the name of the sheriff's department or a specific deputy.
"It's routine throughout the world to send somebody an eviction notice," he said. "Those residents have got a lot of nerve to call up on the 25th and cry about being evicted. Their rent was due on April 1."
The sheriff's department did not keep the names of residents who complained. Persons who received letters could not be reached yesterday.
Aluisi said he is sending copies of his letter to Simkowitz to the state attorney general, the state attorney's office, the Prince George's Landlord and Tenant Commission and the district court of Maryland.
Last month, Simkowitz was scolded by the Prince George's County Council when council members claimed he had reneged on his promise to lower rents at two other apartment complexes in the county. Monocle Management received nearly $24 million in low-interest financing -- authorized by the county, but not using county funds -- to renovate the apartments. In return, Council Chairman William B. Amonett said, Simkowitz had said he would decrease rents at the apartments with the aid of the tax-exempt money.
Simkowitz said in a subsequent interview that he made no such promise, although council records showed otherwise. He said that he raised the rents because of market forces.