Standing up for safe senior housing at Brith Sholom House


Tenants at Brith Sholom House apartments hold press conference after key building investor pleads guilty to mortgage fraud conspiracy

June 20, 2024 – Today, tenants of the Brith Sholom House apartments, where more than 150 Philadelphia seniors have faced years of neglect and disrespect, demandedaction to preserve their homes after building investor Aron Puretz pled guilty to mortgage fraud conspiracy. They were joined by attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center and SeniorLAW Center.

“The residents are fed up with the way we are being treated,” said Marguerite Byrd, spokesperson of the Brith Sholom Tenants’ Council. “Something needs to be done so we can have a pleasant place to call home again.”

On Monday, Aron Puretz, an employee of real estate investment firm Apex Equity Group, pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain over $50 million in mortgage loans for multifamily housing and commercial properties. As part of this scheme, Puretz and his co-conspirators provided fraudulent documents to lenders across the country. They also created a nonprofit, JPC Charities, so that the properties acquired through the scheme could be tax-exempt.

Puretz is listed as a responsible party for dozens of Department of Licenses and Inspections code violations at Brith Sholom House. The companies involved in the scheme — JPC Charities and Apex Equity Group –  profited off of the dismal living conditions at Brith Sholom House and other multifamily properties around the country. On its most recent tax filing, JPC Charities claims that Brith Sholom House generated over $2.4 million in revenue for the entity in 2022.

“New Jersey conmen let buildings crumble and utilities go unpaid, all while ripping off taxpayers and treating senior citizens in places like Brith Sholom as collateral damage” said Madison Gray, an Independence Foundation attorney fellow with the Public Interest Law Center. “Guilty pleas will bring some justice to these fraudsters and they are welcome. But those pleas won’t ensure seniors can live in safe, affordable housing. The City of Philadelphia and its partners need to step in and preserve that housing now.”

According to filings in the bankruptcy case of Brith Sholom’s corporate owner, the owner paid thousands of dollars each month to Apex and other affiliated entities, all while the building’s owner neglected to pay utilities, defaulted on its mortgage, shielded the property from property taxes, and failed to maintain the habitability of the property.

Conditions at Brith Sholom deteriorated following the takeover of the building by companies affiliated with Puretz and his business partners, prompting some tenants to ask where their rent money was going.

“I have lived at Brith Sholom for over 11 years. I’ve always paid my rent until this winter when I didn’t have heat or hot water,” said Byrd. “Why should I pay for something that I’m not getting and help someone live better than me?”

Due to the ongoing code violations, there is no active rental license for the property. Under Philadelphia law, a landlord cannot collect rent without a rental license.

This 12-story, 360-unit apartment tower is one of the city’s few affordable senior housing complexes. Residents there face imminent displacement, with a sheriff sale scheduled for July 2nd, a PGW shut-off that could occur as soon as July 22nd, and a significant risk that, on any day, one of the building’s key operating systems or infrastructures could fail.

Tenants are demanding action from the City of Philadelphia to preserve their community. They are calling for sufficient resources to ensure that the Philadelphia Housing Authority—which has expressed interest in acquiring the property—or another new owner who can be held accountable is able to acquire the property and maintain it as affordable senior housing. The City must also ensure that the building is safe, residents say, by ending PGW’s threat of a utility shut-off.

The Public Interest Law Center has created a one-page summary of current conditions at Brith Sholom and steps that the City can take to address this crisis.