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Property manager charged with stealing North Philly tenants’ rent money

The former manager of the Moscow & Monica apartments allegedly pocketed thousands in rent from tenants. The scheme sparked a public eviction battle between the building owner and tenants.

Frank Sanders was the former property manager of the Moscow & Monica apartments — now called the Fishtown Flats — which is located in North Philadelphia just west of Fishtown.
Frank Sanders was the former property manager of the Moscow & Monica apartments — now called the Fishtown Flats — which is located in North Philadelphia just west of Fishtown.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The former property manager of a North Philadelphia apartment complex, who was accused of pocketing thousands of dollars in residents’ rent money, sparking a public eviction battle between the tenants and building owner, has been arrested and charged with theft, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said.

Frank Sanders, 31, was arrested by Pennsylvania State Police on Tuesday at the Live! Casino & Hotel in South Philadelphia and charged with multiple counts of theft, receiving stolen property, deceptive business practices, and related crimes.

Bail was set at $25,000. The court docket did not list a defense attorney.

» READ MORE: A Philly landlord is trying to evict tenants after his property manager stole their rent money

Sanders was previously the property manager of the Moscow & Monica apartments, just west of Fishtown. From fall 2020 through early 2021, tenants said Sanders offered them verbal month-to-month leases and no credit checks in return for higher security deposit fees. Unbeknownst to the residents, when they paid Sanders their monthly rent and move-in fees, he pocketed the money, prosecutors allege.

The owner of the building, Gagandeep Lakhmna, grew suspicious after noticing a number of vacancies at the complex, an earlier lawsuit says. When he visited in late February, he found upward of 25 units occupied that had been registered as vacant. Lakhmna confronted Sanders, who admitted to taking the funds, then fled and couldn’t be reached, the lawsuit said.

Lakhmna then told residents anything they paid Sanders was void, and accused them of being in on the scheme despite having no evidence. He filed a lawsuit against Sanders and the tenants, and began locking people out of their units and the building, forcing some residents and their children to sleep in their cars or on friends’ couches. Some tenants’ utilities were also cut off.

» READ MORE: Developer in N. Philly eviction case has a history of complaints and a controversial project in the works

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office intervened on the tenants’ behalf in early March, stating that locking residents out of their units without court approval was illegal and violated the then-eviction moratorium. After months of hearings, and Lakhmna’s being found in contempt of court and fined $22,500, the case settled with an agreement between the tenants and Lakhmna. He renamed the complex the Fishtown Flats.

Amid the controversy, Sanders could not be found or reached.

The DA’s Economic Crimes Unit and the Philadelphia Police Major Crimes Unit investigated the claims, and a warrant was issued for Sanders’ arrest in June. He had been on the run, and was apprehended Tuesday after state police encountered him at the casino and noticed there was a warrant out for his arrest.

It was not immediately known what initially caused police to do a background check on Sanders at the casino.