CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Two men were arrested in Port Charlotte 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.
Michelle Underwood has lived on the 34 hundred block of Cohoes Street for more than a decade and says she and her family were out of town when deputies arrested a suspected squatter next door.
"It was very scary because I'm a stay at home mom. I'm home with my daughter alone most of the day," she said.
According to reports, a representative of a realty company found 39-year old Donald Anstett "squatting" next door.
"We had the water company come out they advised us that the water should have been shut off, there was a luck mechanism in place. It was cut off," said Sgt. John Heck Jr. with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
Later that day, deputies also found 34-year old Timothy Horton at a home across town on the 1100 block of Beaumont Avenue in Port Charlotte. Investigators say Horton was also living in the home illegally and say he even presented a forged rental agreement.
They say this is a worrisome trend. "We're seeing a lot more now, the banks are going out, they are cleaning up houses. Now as they are hiring management companies they realize people are living inside them," said Sgt. Heck.
In response to the growing concern of squatters in the area, CCSO has organized a task force hoping to combat the problem.
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.
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.