An attorney once known for taking legal cases alleging brainwashing by cults and being bitten by a rattlesnake placed in his mailbox as a result is suing a man he hired to live on site and maintain an Arizona apartment building, alleging the defendant stole money by submitting false invoices for work done by someone else.

Paul Morantz, 75, is a former sportswriter for the USC Daily Trojan who interviewed O.J. Simpson in 1967 and the next year turned down a sportswriting job with The Los Angeles Times to go to law school.

On Oct. 10, 1978, Morantz was bitten by a rattlesnake left in his Pacific Palisades home mailbox by two members of the Synanon Imperial Marines. His life was saved by a neighbor who applied a tourniquet. It was later determined that the reptile’s rattles had been removed so that the snake could attack without warning.

Morantz has “numerous serious illnesses,” according to the Santa Monica Superior Court lawsuit he filed on behalf of himself against the maintenance man, Paul Ruffino; Ruffino’s wife, Susie; and a couple to whom Ruffino allegedly leased his apartment without permission, William and Melissa Filatoff.

Morantz alleges breach of contract, theft, extortion, intentional caused distress and negligence in the Dec. 8 filing. Morantz is also seeking a temporary, preliminary and permanent injunction preventing the defendants from using or coming onto his property and from possessing the building’s business records.

“Defendants, knowing of plaintiff Paul Morantz’s age, poor health and his inability to be on the apartment building premises during the pandemic, took advantage of same and said plaintiff’s age, and intentionally stole from (him),” the suit alleges.

Representatives for the defendants could not be immediately reached.

Ruffino was hired April 29 and was responsible for maintaining the Phoenix building, owned by Morantz and known as Rezide at Uptown, and collecting rents, the suit states.

Ruffino was required to live in a unit onsite and was to be paid $2,000 a month, the suit states. Ruffino requested that he be given the apartment free of rent in return for taking care of the landscape and pool, according to the suit.

Despite telling Morantz he was doing the work, he surreptitiously hired another man to perform the tasks with the plaintiff’s money, the suit alleges.

“Secretly (Ruffino) hired someone else to do the work and fraudulently paid the maintenance man with plaintiff’s money,” the suit alleges. “No invoices were ever provided. This fraud and scheme resulted in plaintiffs paying twice for the same service.”

The Filatoffs paid Ruffino $1,850 a month to live in his apartment without Morantz’s consent, the suit alleges. Susie Ruffino also lived in the unit without informing Morantz or paying him, the suit states.

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