Anne Arundel County authorities are threatening to take over 19 townhouses in Pioneer City and Warfield if the owner doesn't come up with a plan in two weeks to get rid of the drug dealers authorities say have been operating from them.
State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee filed a complaint Monday in District Court in Glen Burnie alleging that 19 of the 55 properties Mohammad Zuberi and his wife, Lillimor, own at the Warfield Condominiums are a public nuisance.
He detailed more than 150 incidents in the past 18 months in which county police were called to the townhouses on complaints of drug dealing, shootings, stabbings, assaults, thefts and gambling.
The situation is so bad, he wrote, that the commander of Fort Meade has ordered the neighborhood off-limits to military personnel, and homeowners are selling their properties and heading for more peaceful surroundings.
"Many residents of the area have been unhappy about the open air drug market and have made that known to police," Mr. Weathersbee said yesterday. When police told him about it, he filed the complaint, he said.
The townhouses are in the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Arwell Court and the 8300, 8400 and 8500 blocks of Pioneer Drive.
Mr. Zuberi, 57, sharply disputed the allegations. He said the problems are caused by outsiders and insisted that he has evicted bad tenants, worked with the community to form anti-drug patrols and installed better lighting. His tenants, he said, are also upset.
"Everybody I've spoken to feels so hurt. We may go for a class-action suit," he said.
William McDonald, 38, who lives in one of the townhouses cited in the complaint, said no drugs have ever been found in his house.
"I think it's unfair and unjust," he said of the complaint.
Mr. Weathersbee said in his complaint that Mr. Zuberi's management practices have led to the situation. He charged that the defendant failed to monitor the properties, didn't screen prospective tenants, failed to take action to end drug dealing and knowingly rented to drug dealers.
"We don't allege he has any involvement in drug activities," the state's attorney said. But if "he doesn't come in with an adequate plan to shut down the open air drug market, we would request that a receiver be appointed."
Mr. Zuberi could install better lighting and fences near his townhouses, evict tenants who deal drugs, screen tenants better and make sure those who live in his dwellings have their names on the leases, Mr. Weathersbee said.
Other properties in the area not owned by Mr. Zuberi have management groups and "don't have nearly the problems his properties have," Mr. Weathersbee contended.
Mr. Zuberi owns 10 percent to 15 percent of the properties in the area, Mr. Weathersbee said. The state's attorney estimated that he gets about $600 a month per apartment unit.
Targeting a landlord is the latest tactic in Mr. Weathersbee's strategy to eliminate nuisance drug houses. Three homes designated as crack houses were bulldozed last year. Another home in Annapolis was boarded up and sold.