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Oakland Hotel Owner Richard Earl Singer Pleads Guilty to Solicitation of Arson

By Lynda Carson
Tuesday July 12, 2011 - 09:22:00 AM

Oakland - In a plea agreement, on June 22, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Claudia Wilken, wealthy Tiburon resident, criminal defendant Richard Earl Singer, pleaded guilty to one count of solicitation to commit arson at Oakland's low-income residential Menlo Hotel, and was remanded back into custody of the U.S. Marshal. 

Singer is scheduled next for an August 31, 2011, court date at 2:00 pm, for sentencing. Solicitation to commit arson is a felony, punishable with penalties including a maximum prison term of 10 years, and a fine of $125,000. 

According to charges filed by the FBI/ATF, on or about January 10, 2011, Richard Earl Singer did knowingly and with intent attempt to hire another person to burn down the Menlo Hotel or Ridge Hotel, both being occupied low-income residential hotels in Oakland, at that time. Additionally, federal officials charge that two people reported that Singer wanted to hire someone to burn down one of the hotels, and one of the informants worked with the FBI/ATF to stop Singer from burning down either of the hotels. 

Both low-income hotels are located downtown Oakland, and an arson fire large enough to burn down either of the hotels would have placed residents and other buildings at risk, including the fire-fighters called in to battle the blaze. Federal officials charge that as part of the arson scam, Singer suggested that the fire department may be slower to respond to the arson fire if they were to receive several false alarms before an actual fire was started, during a recorded conversation on January 10, 2011. 

In an affidavit dated January 13, 2011, federal officials have charged that Singer hired an arsonist and handed over a check for $1,500, so the arsonist could buy the materials needed to burn down the Menlo Hotel. Additionally, federal officials charged that Singer wanted to collect a maximum insurance payment, and planned to have the occupied Menlo Hotel burned down on January 15, 2011. Allegedly, Singer planned to pay the arsonist (a federal informant), an additional $63,500 around 48 hours after the hotel burned down. 

Also, on December 28, 2010, Singer met with one of the federal informants, and in a recorded conversation Singer was asked if he still wanted to get rid of one of his hotels in Oakland, and Singer said "yeah," according to the federal affidavit. The two of them continued talking and the informant told Singer how someone in New York was found that is a professional, and eventually they settled upon the Menlo Hotel as being the better target of arson. 

Singer was arrested on or around January 17, 2011, and was released from custody on January 20, 2011, after surrendering his passport, and posting a $700,000 secured bond. Additionally, Singer's wife Patricia Singer, and his mother Gloria Singer posted a $500,000 unsecured bond as co-signers, to further assist in bailing him out of jail. 

Singer was released into the custody of his wife Patricia where they both reside in the upscale hills of Tiburon, on Mark Terrace, in a 4 bedroom house valued at $2,100,000, and according to court documents he is restricted from having any contact with 2 witnesses that have informed on him, and alerted the ATF to his plan of burning down the Menlo Hotel. One of the informants was a former employee of the Menlo Hotel, according to federal officials. 

Adding to the criminal charges of conspiring to hire an arsonist to burn down the Menlo Hotel, a local elevator repair company out of Pacifica accused Singer, the owner of Oakland's Menlo Hotel and Ridge Hotel, of operating his buildings and the building's elevators in an unsafe manner, according to an April 2, 2010, letter from Curtis Bleyle of Bleyle Elevator, Inc., to Richard Singer, including Ryan Nathan, Sam Manning, and Joel McCall of the management company called RMD Services. RMD Services managed the Menlo Hotel and Ridge Hotel for Singer. In the letter Bleyle asserted that he will refuse to do business with Singer or RMD Services any longer, unless they operate their buildings and elevators in a safe manner. 

Singer has additionally faced a class action lawsuit from over 50 residents of the Ridge Hotel, and has faced lawsuits from many residents at the Menlo Hotel that have sued him for operating both hotels in slum-like conditions. 

Singer hired the law office of Arguedas, Cassman and Headly, LLP, in Berkeley, and Oakland attorney Paul Delano Wolf to represent himself against the solicitation of arson charge, a felony punishable by 10 years in prison. Singer's attorney Daniel Charles Roth, was not available for comment. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at