CRIME

Police: Montgomery County landlord hired thugs to scare renters, force them to leave

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OLNEY, Md. (WJLA) - Montgomery County Police detectives have made two arrests after they say a landlord paid a number of people to threaten and scare his tenants, who were late paying their rent, in order to force them out of the residence.

Parkville landlord Martin Winepol (left) is charged with hiring Garfield Johnson (right) and a number of acquaintances to threaten his renters and scare them out of their apartment. (Photos: MCPD)

Police said in a statement on Thursday that on Aug. 6, a dispatch center received a number of 911 calls about an elderly woman screaming and banging on a neighbor's window.

A 72-year-old woman told responding officers that she and her 50-year-old son rented a basement apartment from 71-year-old Martin Winepol, of Olney. The apartment is located on Cashell Road in Parkville, Md.

The woman said she and her son returned home around 8:30 that evening to find four men and one woman in the apartment. She said the unknown suspects yelled at her, telling her Winepol wanted them to get their things and leave the apartment.

The woman said both she and her son were grabbed by the suspects and pushed out of the apartment, and that when they attempted to call 911 from their phones, hers was broken and his was taken.

Officers interviewed other tenants who live at the property. One told police Winepol told him earlier that day that he planned to hire people to force them out of the apartment. Another female tenant told police Winepol had warned her she may hear screaming that night, but should not come out of her room.

Police said a deal struck with Winepol's attorneys led to Winepol turning himself in to authorities on Aug. 12. Winepol is charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, and conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.

Garfield Johnson was arrested without incident in Parkville on Aug. 13. He is charged with first-degree burglary, robbery, two counts of second-degree assault, and conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and robbery.

Police said the investigation also revealed that Winepol's Parkville home - a single-family home - was being used as an illegal boarding house.

"The residence included four, illegal accessory apartments and five separate kitchens," the police statement said. "It was occupied by 15 people at the time of the incident."

On that day, the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) Housing Code Enforcement condemned the entire property.

"All occupants were ordered to vacate the property until the home was converted back to a single-family dwelling," police said.

Police added that the four remaining suspects in this case, who assisted Johnson, have not been identified.

Montgomery County police ask that anyone with information about the unidentified suspects involved in this case call Officer Sharif Hidayat at the 4th District at 240-773-5500. Callers may remain anonymous.

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