For years the rust-colored house on Nordhoff Street claimed as Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon's official residence was unoccupied, though someone would show up occasionally to cut the weeds or put up Christmas lights, a neighbor testified at the councilman's preliminary hearing Thursday.
From the fall of 2006 to the end of 2009, Stephen Folden said he rarely saw a car or people at the Panorama City home. Trash bins weren't set out, and the weeds would grow high, he told a courtroom in Los Angeles. Folden, who lived across the street from Alarcon's house at 14451 Nordhoff St., called it "a total lack of activity."
"From 2006 to the end of 2009, it appeared that no one was living there," Folden said.
Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, are facing 24 felony counts of perjury and voter fraud for allegedly claiming the Nordhoff Street house as their residence so that Richard Alarcon could run for the 7th District council seat, which required that he live in the area.
Prosecutors with the district attorney's Public Integrity Division say the couple actually were living in a Sun Valley home, outside district boundaries. Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria, sister of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will decide if there is enough evidence to order the case to trial.
Folden's testimony stretched to nearly four hours as defense attorneys questioned whether he was able to keep an eye on Alarcon's home with enough consistency to say for sure that no one was living there. Folden acknowledged that he worked a graveyard shift and didn't watch the house all day.
Under defense questioning, Folden also acknowledged that business suits, sport coats and men's shoes were piled in a heap outside the Alarcon home in late October 2009. Within hours, trash pickers hauled most of the belongings off, Folden testified.
The pile included photographs of the Alarcons, bank documents and a few small appliances that Folden couldn't specifically recall. One man rode off on a bicycle with some suits over his shoulder and returned a few minutes later with a woman in a vehicle. Together they loaded up more items, Folden said.
"It just seemed like it was quite a bit of stuff," he said.
Folden said he assumed the property had been set out for people to rummage through for free. He didn't learn until later, he said, that a squatter had broken into the home and thrown the Alarcons' belongings outside.
Defense attorneys Richard Lasting and Mark Overland appeared to be buttressing an argument that the Alarcons had temporarily moved out of the Nordhoff Street home to do repairs and intended to reoccupy it.
The hearing continues Friday.