PHOENIX - Editor’s note: We have updated our reporting to clarify the ownership reporting structure of the Sterling International Hotels.
There’s a problem property in south Phoenix that police said is abandoned, crime infested and dangerous for first responders – and it’s managed by the Paradise Valley vice mayor.
Phoenix city officials tell ABC15 they’ve demanded the vacant motel owner clean it up but so far the message has been mostly rejected.
The property is the Sterling International Hotels at 24th Street and Jefferson, which has been abandoned since 2014. County records show that GLENDALE AND 27TH INVEST LLC owns the property, although state records and Phoenix city officials name the principal players as George Bien-Willner and his son (who manages the property), Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner.
The motel is in such bad shape that Phoenix is threatening to take it over. ABC15 obtained a letter signed by former Police Chief Joseph Yahner, warning the Bien-Willners of potential police action in July of last year.
Despite being abandoned, squatters have moved in sparking more than 100 police calls for service last year including a dead body, sexual assault and dangerous drugs according to Phoenix police records. Former police Chief Joseph Yahner sent the two a letter in July of 2016, warning that the city could take over the property if the crime isn’t cleaned up.
ABC15 reached Jerry Bien-Willner twice by phone Monday evening.
“I’m not interested in commenting,” said Bien-Willner during the first phone call with ABC15 reporter Jason Volentine.
“I don't have an obligation to talk to you, other than to tell you that claims that you're making are disputed,” said Bien-Willner in a second phone conversation with Volentine.
The Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department disagrees. City Spokesperson Tamra Ingersoll told ABC15 that city officials visited the problem property twice last month and found several problems: blight, nuisance property, being and open and vacant structure, unsecured pool fencing and electrical hazard. Ingersoll said the Bien-Willners have expressed interest in fixing the problems but have so far refused to come to the bargaining table.
Phoenix police said legal action to take over the property, called abatement, is still on the table. However, they’re hoping Vice Mayor Bien-Willner and his father will work with Phoenix officials to avoid that outcome.