FAIRFIELD — Walnut Creek police arrested squatters who were trying to garner a taste of the high life while living in a $2.4 million home on Sugarloaf Court.
Charges included burglary, forgery and trespass.
The home had been bought by an investment group with the intention of doing some work and then flipping it, said Sgt. Mike McLaughlin of the Walnut Creek Police Department. The alleged unauthorized occupants were discovered when work began.
Police were contacted Monday and the occupants produced a lease with a name that police discovered in the course of the investigation was created with a stolen identity. The name used was that of a previous owner of the home. The squatters also produced a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. bill for the address.
After initial contact with police, McLaughlin said the owners offered the squatters cash to leave the premises. The squatters tried to “maintain their contract is good,” he said. They turned down the offer and the owners contacted the police once again.
During the investigation, which included consulting Contra Costa County’s Consumer Fraud Division at the district attorney’s office, the stolen identity was discovered as well as the fact that the occupants were in possession of assault rifles. A search warrant for the home and arrest warrant for four of the occupants was issued, according to a department issued press release.
Police returned Thursday with the SWAT team and arrested two of the four occupants. The remaining two were at large.
McLaughlin said in the past year or so he’s dealt with various types of squatter issues and called the recent events part of a scam.
“There are enough Internet-based sites that tell people how to become a squatter,” he said. “It’s a schooling on how to do it.”
He said the “lessons” aren’t how to ultimately end up with the home but rather how to slow to process of being removed.
McLaughlin said that removing squatters gets into a “sticky part of the law,” which is why, he said, “we took the information we had and worked with the Consumer Fraud Division at the DAs office to make sure we were on solid ground.”
“What we had was all laid out before them,” he said.
In this case, they were able to prove that the lease was created using a stolen identity. But he said he understands why people, such as these homeowners, would take matters into their own hands and offer money for a hoped quick removal.
“I don’t know about the court system in (Solano County but) because of budget constraints just even getting your face in front of a judge in Contra Costa County is time-consuming,” he said. “The process is slow.”
McLaughlin also said that while the legal process is moving through the system, the property can “suffer severe damage.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.