Woman at Center of Room-for-Rent Scam in South L.A. Bragged About Opening Nine Other Locations

Crenshaw House
Giovanna Wilkerson, the woman at the center of an investigation involving a room-for-rent scam in South Los Angeles, bragged last year about opening nine other homes.

During a texting conversation where she was trying to rent a house in South Los Angeles she said, “I’ve opened up 9 others homes while waiting on u [sic].”

Wilkerson was trying to convince the family to rent their property to her in 2017 and they were not interested in her “hustle.”

The family says she was super aggressive with them, reaching out regularly for approximately the past five years trying to rent their properties for her business.

Currently, Wilkerson is the subject of an investigation by multiple entities after tenants say she promised them transitional housing that included a clean living environment, meals and even job assistance. The tenants, who were paying to rent for shared rooms, are currently in the process of being evicted from a nearly 4,600-square-foot dilapidated house on the border of Inglewood in the city of Los Angeles after Wilkerson stopped paying rent to the property’s owner.

Since the story first broke, numerous previous landlords and tenants, have come forward about Wilkerson.  A search of court documents shows that beginning in 2009, Wilkerson has had seven unlawful detainers filed against her—almost one every year.  Several landlords have details how Wilkerson ran her business in their homes and then skipped out on paying the rent.

Current and previous tenants say that in order to rent a shared room from Wilkerson demanded access to their debit card numbers, pin codes–including for their Electronic Benefit Transfer or EBT which is used in California is to issue food stamp and cash benefits to recipients.  Tenants say she solicited them online, in front of the Department of Public Social Services and on Skid Row at homeless shelters.

Wilkerson says her tenants are required to disclose their EBT information (pin code, card number) because people become dishonest.

“We don’t ask to [hold] onto cards as most program do,” Wilkerson said. “They will say their funds didn’t hit the card, and attempt to live for free, smoke or drink their money up.  Poor choices rather than housing being a priority.”

According to the tenants of the Crenshaw house who are facing evicition, residents receiving General Relief pay between $175 to $200 of their $221 monthly benefits for a bed bug infested mattress on the floor in a shared room. The accommodations they say for those who receive more money isn’t any better–they’re just charged more for it. Former comedian and stroke victim Vincent Cook pays $350 to sleep on the floor of a room he shares with a stranger.

And while it may sound like a good deal to avoid being unsheltered, the house that recently served as home to as many as 40 men and women has no heat and only one working toilet and shower out of 4 full bathrooms. Water constantly leaks downstairs into the living room and every room in the house has signs (and smells) of mold.  And then there are the broken windows, rats, roaches, bed bugs and stray cats.

Wilkerson contends that residents are not tenants and therefore landlord-tenant law does not apply to them.

“I’m the Housing Director, they are participants,” she said via text message.

Undated photo of Giovanna Wilkerson.

In addition to Giovanna Wilkerson, she’s known to use the alias’ Giovanna Clark, Giovanna Leigh Cromartie Wilkerson and Giovan’na LC Clark.  Her business names have included “Hands Helping Hands,” “Hands Helping Hands II” and “WeeCome2U! Transportation.”  Her preferred clientele appears to be the physically disabled, persons with developmental disabilities, elderly, low-income, indigent adults and others on public assistance unable to afford the high cost of rent.

Still facing eviction, the tenants of the Crenshaw house have established a Go Fund Me campaign to assist in paying their legal fees and to split what’s left over among themselves to aid in their relocation.

Do you know Giovanna Wilkerson?  If you rented to Ms. Wilkerson or rented from Ms. Wilkerson and you’d like to share your experience or  Ms. Wilkerson solicited you to rent from her or to rent to her, please click here to contact me.

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