PORT CHARLOTTE, FL- Two men were arrested in Port Charlotte on Monday for allegedly illegally taking up residence in two separate ‘vacant’ houses and more arrests may be pending as the Sheriff’s Office steps up investigation of “squatting” complaints.
According to reports, a representative of a realty company found Donald Lewie Anstett, 39, of no address in Port Charlotte, living at a house in the 3400 block of Cohoes Street in Port Charlotte. Anstett initially told deputies that he had rented the house after seeing an ad on the Internet and he was in the process of having the water and electricity accounts for the house transferred to his name.
During the investigation, detectives learned from representatives from Charlotte County Utilities that the water to the house had been turned off on October 11 and should not be functional. They determined that about 800 gallons of water had been used since the date it was turned off. They installed a ‘bullet lock’ to prevent future tampering.
Detectives charged Anstett with Theft of Utility Services, Trespassing and Violation of Probation. He was transported to the Charlotte County Jail where he is being held without bond.
Later that same day, Community Policing deputies arrested Timothy Allen Horton, 34, of no address in Port Charlotte, under similar circumstances. The deputies had been at the house located in the 1100 block of Beaumont Avenue in Port Charlotte when representatives from Charlotte County Utilities had shut off the watt and locked the meter.
When they checked the house on Monday, they found Horton living there. Horton told the deputies that he had a rental agreement to live there after he responded to an Internet ad. During their investigation, they found several inconsistencies in his story. CCU confirmed that the water was still supposed to be shut off.
Horton was arrested on charges of Theft of Utility Services and Trespassing. He was booked at the Charlotte County Jail and released on a $1,500 bond.
Lt. Mathew Dowling, the Commander of the Sheriff’s Office’s District Investigations Section, said there is a growing concern with several groups as related to potential “squatters” who are trespassing at vacant houses. So in response, the Sheriff’s Office has put together a specific group, that includes two property crimes detectives, the community policing officers and several neighborhood watch groups, to combat the problem.