Criminal charges dismissed against landlord

URBANA — Criminal charges against a landlord accused of swapping fire safety equipment to fool city officials have been dismissed in a case of what essentially amounts to "double jeopardy."

Paul Zerrouki, who was accused of two counts of criminal housing management, has also paid his overdue property maintenance fines to the city and is square as of Tuesday, city officials said.

The charges were dismissed last week after it came to prosecutors' attention that the city of Urbana had also pursued city ordinance violation charges against Zerrouki for the same offenses, which were alleged to have occurred in January.

Zerrouki paid $1,625 in fines for those violations, according to the city.

Assistant Champaign County State's Attorney Tim Sullivan said going ahead with criminal charges, too, would essentially amount to double jeopardy.

"He received city violations from the city of Urbana for the exact same conduct for the exact same day," Sullivan said. "We didn't know about it at the time we filed the misdemeanor charges."

In addition to those fines, Zerrouki has also paid $6,100 in overdue property maintenance fines after city inspectors found dozens of code violations on his properties.

Zerrouki, who owns a number of multifamily apartment buildings in Champaign and Urbana, has been the target of much consternation from Urbana city officials and neighbors who say his buildings are a blight to southeast Urbana.

Zerrouki has said that he is doing his best to work with the city and renovate his buildings to bring them up to code and provide quality housing for his tenants.

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