Chevy Chase landlord ordered to pay more than $1 million
Van Dusen convicted of hiding cameras to spy on female tenants
The 65-year-old Chevy Chase landlord who pleaded guilty last year to using small hidden video cameras to spy on his female tenants has been ordered to pay $1 million in damages.
The judgment, in a civil suit that wrapped up in Montgomery County Circuit Court last week, is the latest court action against Dennis A. Van Dusen, who previously pleaded guilty to three criminal charges.
Van Dusen was charged with 15 counts of being a peeping Tom, having prurient intent and other charges. He pleaded guilty to three counts of “visual surveillance with prurient intent.”
Prosecutors had accused him of luring renters by advertising rooms at below-market rates at his home on Ridgewood Avenue in Chevy Chase, then filming the women with hidden cameras.
At his sentencing in July 2013, Van Dusen avoided jail time.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Joseph A. Dugan ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine and serve five years’ probation.
Former renters and others filmed by Van Dusen have filed two civil suits against him, seeking $5.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
In the civil trial, two plaintiffs — a 28-year-old woman and her then-boyfriend — were each awarded more than $300,000 in compensatory damages.
Van Dusen also was ordered to pay a total of $400,000 in punitive damages.
Donna McBride, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said one of her clients became suspicious of Van Dusen after reading a magazine article about landlords who spied on their tenants.
The woman found a camera in her smoke detector, McBride said.
The couple split up as a result of Van Dusen’s actions. “The stress was just too much,” McBride said.
It’s unclear if the plaintiffs will get any of the money they were awarded because Van Dusen claimed he only makes $19,000 a year, she said.
Due Tran, a Virginia-based lawyer who represented Van Dusen, declined to comment on whether Van Dusen would appeal the decision.
Beginning Feb. 25, Van Dusen has another trial, on a separate suit filed by another woman he was convicted of filming.
Ismail Shahtakhtinski, a lawyer representing the plaintiff in that case, declined to comment about the upcoming trial.
Reached by phone at his home on Tuesday, Van Dusen declined to speak to The Gazette.
Last week, Van Dusen filed a lawsuit against a former tenant who was not involved in any of the other court cases, accusing her of defamation of character and infliction of emotional distress, according to court records.