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    Ceiling Fell. Baby Died. Slumlords Paid Nothing

    by Neena Satija | Nov 22, 2011 1:01 pm

    It’s been more than two years since the bathroom ceiling in Delwanna Wiggins’ apartment caved in on her. It’s been four months since Apple Holdings LLC—one of New Haven slumlord Michael Steinbach’s corporate aliases—was ordered to pay her $30,665.50 in damages.

    Wiggins never got a cent.

    Steinbach, on the other hand, continued to collect rent for her apartment from the government long after the ceiling collapsed—courtesy of the taxpayer. Wiggins (pictured beneath the ceiling) lives in a property with rents subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 program.

    Her encounter is the latest example of the individual impact of a string of problem properties controlled by Steinbach and his partner Janet Dawson, with the generous help of government officials.

    “I was going through a hell of a lot of pain,” said the 34-year-old Wiggins, who was pregnant at the time of the accident. She miscarried a few months later.

    She called her lawyer about the accident, gave her testimony. They filed suit. They won. She thought justice had been served.

    But when her attorney, Loren Costantini, sent out a notice to Michael Steinbach to collect the $30,665.50 judgment in September, all he got in return was a notice of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

    It turned out that Apple Holdings, LLC had filed for bankruptcy in August. That would make it far more difficult for the damages to be collected, Costantini said. “I’m disgusted by the situation.”

    Since then, Wiggins has given up hope of getting any money. She has an infant son to care for. Her mother, who lives in the apartment directly below her, has cancer and visits the doctor as often as twice a month. Before the accident Wiggins was a store manager at McDonald’s making good money; she hasn’t been able to work since then.

    “Why are you even writing about this?” she asked a reporter at her house in Fair Haven on Monday. “It’s not like anything’s going to be done about [Dawson or Steinbach].”

    Wiggins has been living in her second-floor apartment for nearly four years. A few weeks before the accident in August 2009, she noticed that her bathroom ceiling had started leaking and called her landlord.

    “They kept saying they were going to send somebody out to fix it, and they never did,” Wiggins said.


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