Perjury charge filed against Minneapolis landlord

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Minneapolis landlord Stephen Frenz was charged with a single count of perjury in connection with a tenants’ remedies court case, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced at a news conference Wednesday.

Frenz, 55, was charged by summons and a first appearance was set for Feb. 8.

“We rarely charge people with perjury because it is hard to prove that someone is outright lying, as opposed to forgetting a fact or making slight changes in their testimony,” Freeman said. “But we think we can prove that Mr. Frenz worked hard to falsify documents and lean on employees to sign leases even though they were not expected to move into the apartment.”

According to the criminal complaint, on Jan. 20, 2016, a Minneapolis neighborhood organization, IX of Powderhorn Park filed a tentants’ remedies action in Hennepin County District Court against Frenz and two of his companies. The group wanted Frenz to fix inadequate heat, compromised security and infestations of mice, bedbugs, roaches and other insects at his 17-unit apartment building at 3057 14th Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

A neighborhood organization such as IX of Powderhorn Park can only bring an action if it has obtained the written permission of the tenants of a majority of the occupied units of the apartment house. On March 2, 2016, Frenz filed a motion with the judge for summary judgment and included a sworn affidavit in which he said that three additional units were occupied at the time of the filing and, therefore, IX of Powderhorn Park did not have a majority of the tenants, the complaint states.

However, an investigation by Minneapolis police, at the request of the housing court referee who heard the case, discovered that Frenz was lying about those three units being occupied. In fact, shortly after the filing, Frenz’s lawyers withdrew the motion for summary judgment and said they could not rely on the documents concerning the three units, according to the complaint.

The evidence that the affidavit was false included that one of Frenz’s employees was shown the tenant ledger submitted to the court for the three units and the employee said the company’s records did not have tenants by those names living in the units, the complaint states. A pest control employee told investigators that Frenz called him and said he had lost the invoice for the work the man had done and he should submit a new invoice for the three units but not include the word “vacant.”

Investigators also tracked down two of the three people Frenz said lived in the disputed three units. Both currently or had worked for Frenz and just before the court case was to begin, they signed a lease as a favor to Frenz. However, neither person ever lived in those apartments, with one of them saying he had lived in his current home for 20 years, according to the complaint.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)

Video of press conference