A property company owner who waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against a young mother he wanted to illegally evict has been given a stiffer sentence after losing an appeal against his conviction.
Joel Zwiebel from Hackney and his company Interpage Limited were first convicted of harassment and carrying out an illegal eviction in a case brought by Wandsworth council in south London in November. Last month Zwiebel and Interpage lost their bid to overturn the magistrates court conviction and sentencing when their appeals were thrown out. Now this week a judge has imposed a stiffer sentence against Zwiebel and ordered both he and his company to pay thousands of pounds extra in court costs.
Wandsworth council says the prosecution was mounted by its housing department after it emerged that Zwiebel plus another man - Derrick Stuart, who was also convicted in November but did not take part in the appeal - had harassed a young woman and her son in a malicious bid to evict them.
The victims had lived at the rented flat in Battersea, south London, for many years even though it suffered from damp, water leaks and serious disrepair. Because Mr Zwiebel and his company refused to fix these problems the woman began withholding her rent, prompting him to begin eviction proceedings.
At this point the council intervened and negotiated a compromise agreement in which she would pay the rent she owed and he would carry out the necessary repairs.
However, the council says that “within days” Zweibel reneged on the deal. Instead of fixing the defects he sent Stuart – who had previously been the subject of a BBC Rogue Traders investigation - to the property and he proceeded to switch off the gas and electricity supply even though it was winter.
A few days later the woman arrived back at the flat to find the locks had been changed and she could no longer get in to her home. It took her 18 months to eventually regain her possessions, most of which had by that stage either disappeared or been broken.
This week, Zwiebel was ordered by a judge to wear an electronic ankle tag and comply with an overnight curfew for three months between the hours of 9pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £4,000 in costs and £1,000 compensation to his victim. Interpage Limited was fined £4,000 plus costs of £3,500 and £1,000 in compensation.
For his role in the eviction, Stuart was fined £1,500, with £2,500 costs and also ordered to pay a further £1,000 in compensation.