Sunday, November 28, 2021
Tenants Facing Eviction in South L.A. Room-for-Rent Scam Not the Only Victims 
By Jasmyne A. Cannick, Special to the Sentinel 
Published March 8, 2018

Undated photo of Giovanna Wilkerson. (File Photo)

“It was the perfect place for me,” laments Steven Jeter.  “That was my perfect opportunity to own something in Los Angeles.” 

A one time property owner, Jeter reminisces about purchasing his first property in Inglewood in 2005 on East 68th Street.  Today he lives off of disability and in one of his mother’s properties. 

Jeter’s dream of home ownership soon turned into a nightmare after he rented the lot which contained a 2 bedroom home in the front and a separate 1 bedroom to a woman claiming to run a program for adults with developmental disabilities. 


“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” Jeter continues.  “I had an open house and she walked in all distressed. She said, “I really need this place.  They don’t have a place to stay’ and I fell for it like a dummy.” 

The woman is Giovanna Wilkerson and she’s currently the subject of an investigation 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. 

Jeter says that Wilkerson and her husband Rennis, approached him to rent his property in 2005.  He remembers telling them that he was going to need certain information from them both to consider renting to them.  He says that Ms. Wilkerson went to her car and returned with a printer and a copier. 

Jeter confirms that Wilkerson signed a three-year contract with him for $4,000 per month in 2005.  During that time he says that Wilkerson showed him proof that she was getting paid to care for adults with disabilities. 

“I believe she was getting paid by the Westside Regional Center,” he says. 

Jeter says that during the first three years of working with Giovanna Wilkerson that she would regularly bounce checks and pay the rent late, but he continued to try and work with them because he believed she was trying to provide a much needed community service.   


Jeter moved to Arizona and was unable to check on the property regularly. 

The Wilkerson’s eventually entered into a five-year contract. 

“I believe that was one way she — again — tried to ease my stress,” Jeter added.  “She said, ‘you know I’ll pay the $5,000 a month contract for five years. You don’t have to worry.  I am not going anywhere. The money is coming.’ He continues, “You know some of her checks would bounce. But then she’d make good on it but it would be late.” 

Jeter says shortly after the 5-year contract was signed that Wilkerson stopped paying him. 

“California was in the middle of a state budget crisis and I guess since she [Giovanna Wilkerson] was getting money from the government to take care of the people she couldn’t pay the rent.  I tried to work with her and in fact I did work with her. When the crisis was over and she got paid, she didn’t pay me any of the rent she owed.” 

Shortly thereafter,  a neighbor informed Jeter that Ms. Wilkerson had moved out of the property and left it abandoned for nearly four months. 

When Mr. Jeter came back to California and to his property, he found there were people living there who claimed they had subleased it from Ms. Wilkerson and were paying her rent. 

In the end, Steven Jeter says he lost the property that now sits just minutes away from where the Chargers will join the Rams at a a new stadium in Inglewood and where homeowners have seen a dramatic increase in their property values. 

“I loved that property,” Jeter says thoughtfully.  “That was a property that I wish I could have been giving my son, you know.  That should have been his inheritance. Because that was a nice piece of property.” 

Jeter sued the Wilkerson’s in court and won two judgements against them.  In 2008, he was awarded $7,500 for late fees on rent, bounced checks, subletting, breach of contract, property damage and legal fees for their eviction.  In 2012, after a default judgement against Wilkerson and her business Hands Helping Hands, he was awarded $232,650.00 for damages breaching  the five-year- contract.  He is still hoping to collect the money owed to him from the Wilkersons. 

“Maybe I’ll get my money.  Who knows?” 

Raymond Todd says that he never agreed to have a transitional housing program in his property in Compton. 

Todd says that he rented the home he owned on Wilmington Ave. near Rosecrans Blvd. to Giovanna Wilkerson in 2014 for her and her immediate family to live in. 

“That was the agreement,” he says absolutely.  “Two adults and two children, $2,100.” 

What he ended up with was over a dozen people living in his 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. 

Todd filed an unlawful detainer against Wilkerson in January 2015 and by March of that year a judgement was entered for restitution and possession of the property. 

Todd says that Wilkerson abandoned the property with over a dozen tenants still living there —tenants he says claimed they paid Wilkerson rent.  He says that some tenants who were living in another property she was running a transitional housing program out of in Compton near his soon came over to his property after Wilkerson was evicted from that property as well. 

According to court documents, in 2014 Yanyan Liu filed an unlawful detainer against Wilkerson for property located at 820 W. Compton Blvd. and was awarded restitution and possession of the property on Dec. 23 of the same year. 

“I tried to work with the tenants who were left behind,” Todd says.  “Many of them didn’t have anywhere to go. I tried to encourage them to get a job.  I tried to help them get Section 8. I was helping them. I did the best that I could.  Giovanna left them there so I had no choice but to help them in order to help me. They didn’t want to pay me because they had already paid her.” 

Todd says that he understands that when the tenants destroyed his property, they weren’t mad at him but mad at Wilkerson and the situation.  Still, it caused him to spend a lot of money to fix all of the damages. 

On the subject of Ms. Wilkerson, he says, “This lady is all about her money.  She’s registered with these hospitals and these convalescent homes and she knows what she’s doing. And she’s putting herself under these different identities. And these hospitals are actually trying to get rid of people —hospitals can’t keep you anyway.  There’s no way they can keep you and they are getting rid of people. So again, she’s volunteering and saying hey I’ll take them. I just find it pretty bad how she’s treating people. Like she’s enslaving these people and they’re living in filth. You know Giovanna just really played a cruel game.” 

Army veteran Antoine Brown met Giovanna Wilkerson outside of the Department of Social Services on Grand Ave. near downtown Los Angeles. 

“She was out there handing out her little papers asking if people needed affordable housing saying that she could help me out and get me back on my feet.  So she asked me for my EBT card, the number, the pin number and everything. So she took out like $200 and told me to sleep on the couch and that if I didn’t have the money, she’d take the food stamps.” 

The house Ms. Wilkerson moved him into was the house she was renting from Raymond Todd in Compton. 

“We came home one day and there was an eviction notice on the door and we was like what’s going on,” Brown explained.  “So we tried to call her and she never picked up the phone. And then the landlord gave us a few months to get out of the house.  All she does is just take people’s money and then go about her way.” 

Brown says that Wilkerson regularly mixed women who didn’t have minor children together in the same room with men.  Rooms that include mattresses lined up on the floor —without a bed frame. Brown said that the front door wouldn’t lock so he doubled as security for the house by sleeping on the couch. He only stayed there a few months before he moved into a place of his own. 

A search of court documents shows that beginning in 2009, Wilkerson has had seven unlawful detainers filed against her—almost one every year. 

As for the tenants in the house on Crenshaw Blvd., the angst and uncertainty will continue at least for another week before they learn their fate after a Fri. Mar. 2 court date regarding their eviction was continued.  The tenants — some with autism and developmental and physical disabilities — all claim that Giovanna Wilkerson left them stuck facing an eviction after she didn’t pay the rent. 

At issue is not whether or not they can stay in the house that’s without a working furnace, hot water, infested with bed bugs, roaches and mold and has tree roots bursting through the windows–but rather how long they have before they have to vacate the premises and where exactly they will go when they’re forced to leave. 

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. 

“Ms. Wilkerson’s scam is made possible by the failure of city and county governments to address the lack of truly affordable housing,” commented civil and human rights attorney Nana Gyamfi. “Because they have made no effort to control rents and regulate landlords and allowed the displacement of thousands of people by developers and gentrifiers, vultures like Ms. Wilkerson are continuously swooping in and taking advantage of desperate people who are trying to keep from sleeping outside.  All of the cities where Ms. Wilkerson has properties should be considered the proud sponsors of her exploitive enterprise.” 

If you rented property to OR rooms from Giovanna Wilkerson, please email [email protected] 

Categories: Crenshaw & Around | Exclusive | Family | Local | News | News (Family)
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