The rest of the story: Caring (poorly) for the elderly poor

My story in today’s Philadelphia City Paper, co-written with Samantha Melamed, didn’t end with wage theft issues. After looking over my initial draft, Samantha dug into the Philadelphia Municipal Court Dockets. There you find that Wakeeta Rowe has more than twenty cases filed against her for non-payment of wages, rent, and taxes. When I had looked through the dockets, I focused on the wage cases, but Samantha started poking around in the rent cases and uncovered something else entirely. Some of the most recent action was around a company of Rowe’s called Philacare which, as of this writing, is still online.

Philacare provides care services for elderly and disabled people in Philadelphia. The website features no addresses, just a phone number which belongs to Lisa Rowe, Wakeeta’s sister. She put me in touch with Wakeeta over email. But as I was talking to Rowe about K-12 Staffing, Samantha found a whole new angle:

Rowe and her sister say the homes and their workers have all necessary licenses, though they would not specify which licenses or the locations of the homes. Rowe says none of her Philadelphia houses have more than three residents; DPW licenses and oversees only homes with four or more residents.

Landlords, however, say it was evident there were more people living there — and sometimes in unwholesome conditions.

For one, Willie Seward sued to evict Philacare and Rowe from his rental property, a three-bedroom house at 1512 W. Venango St., last September, complaining that she had racked up $2,615 in unpaid rent, gas and water bills. According to Seward, she had four or five people living at the house, and put the gas and electric bills under the names of her tenants.

Just before the lock-out date, “She moved them on to another house. She found herself another sucker,” he says. “They stayed places about six months and then she gotta go because the landlord evicted her.”

He says he was angry about his money, but worried about the residents. “They were kind of disabled, disorientated — they wasn’t normal people, they had a sickness,” he says. He wondered: Where would they end up?

It turns out they ended up — at least for several months — at the rental property of another landlord (who asked not to be named), a four-bedroom house in West Oak Lane. This time, Rowe was calling her company Rowe & Associates.

Rowe’s payments were late every month, then they stopped. He claims Rowe owed close to $4,000 by the time she was evicted. Worse, he says, someone apparently tampered with the gas meter, prompting Philadelphia Gas Works to remove it. It wasn’t replaced until after she moved out. “Those poor people lived without hot water, a stove or heat in the house, just in squalor, from late March through late May, when the final person got moved out,” he says.

When he stopped by, he would see a few elderly people sitting on plastic lawn chairs in the living room, watching a TV on a milk crate. Later, he was concerned enough by what he saw while cleaning up — signs that a resident had been sleeping on sheets on the floor with scraps of carpet padding for a blanket — that he called the Social Security Administration to complain.

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17 Responses to The rest of the story: Caring (poorly) for the elderly poor

  1. am2 says:

    Thank you for posting this info. Wakeeta Rowe was a tenant of mine, and she failed to pay rent, which earned a judgement against her for nearly $13,000. She was in the property for about 6 months, never paid, but did bounce checks–I thought she may have had a bad deal due to the recession, but now I can see that was not the case. I am assuming, based upon the articles of clothing, garbage, and furniture (lack thereof) that she had people living there similar to the situations presented above. As a side note, before Wakeeta was evicted (which takes too long in Philadelphia) she stole over $2000 worth of appliances, and incurred nearly $1000 worth of damages. Her total damages were over $16,000, and I nearly foreclosed on the property as a result of her non-payment of rent.

  2. am2 says:

    By the way, here is her facebook page, “Where this is a will there is a way” on a fortune cookie is her cover photo.

    • lisa says:

      Wow….i am in complete shock after reading the article by Jake Blumgart and the follow up comments….i just cant believe it….i feel sorry for all the people who were scammed by this woman….i just hope that she gets it together and turns her life around before its too late…i am really interested in speaking to the person who posted on 11/23

  3. am2 says:

    I’m around if you would like to talk about my experience with Wakeeta as a tenant. My primary interest is the debt, but as it stands the likelihood of retrieving it is very small, especially considering that it appears I am not the only victim. The police are investigating Wakeeta for Fraud, and my hope, at the very least, is that Wakeeta is arrested and sentenced to serve in jail. Because I no longer reside in the area, I’m keeping a close eye here on this page hoping to get ahold of some sort of a conclusion to the disruption she has caused.

  4. tquietmouse says:

    I worked for her for a few weeks at her day care in Jan of 2009. She hired me as a director, but I was a more of a substitute. I was trying to help her in organizing her day care. They were a lot of violations there and I thought I could help her turn them around. But at the end she was not letting me work at all and told me she did not need me anymore. I was glad, because I had been in the child care business for nearly twenty years and her place was the worst I have ever seen.

  5. caitlin says:

    I wonder where she is hiding out now?? I know her and sadly i had no idea that she was a “scam artist”…She will get caught one day!!!

  6. joan says:

    Has there been a follow up on this story since September 13, 2012? Does anyone have any updated information on this woman?

  7. jakeblumgart says:

    I haven’t heard anything more, besides these comments and the occasional email I get from someone who found the article and was ripped off in the past.

  8. lena says:

    Any updates on this story?

  9. lena says:

    I think she is in Chicago now

  10. Aishaphl says:

    I to worked for Wakeeta at a daycare center in South Philly. She owes me and six other staff members a months worth of wages. I will be checking in for updates. Im glad somebody was able to expose her. I went to Ccis, and department of public welfare to report her they did nothing. My experience with this woman was terrible. Im glad shes outted.

  11. nina says:

    wow…has anybody received any updates on this story? Maybe she got locked up….just a thought

  12. zloh says:

    does anybody know if she is still in the daycare or housing business in philly?

  13. karen says:

    does anyone know if she has been arrested and serving time???

  14. James Caldwell says:

    It’s extremely sad that a care provider would mistreat anyone but especially elderly, children or intellectual. She has two older people in very bad living conditions at 3811 n 18th st .hopefully someone can assisst them before it’s too late.

  15. john says:

    WOW!! that is very very sad…I was sent an email by a friend that worked for her in the past and she informed me that she is still in business…the website address is street academy) and (kidz academy).

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