Melissa Berkelhammer, NYC Socialite with Harvard Law Degree: Squatter

Sometimes people think that squatters are all poor people who are trying to exploit the system because they can’t afford their own apartment. But even well-educated, well-off people can be squatters, since this malicious behavior is more about a lack of conscience or ethics, and an appalling sense of entitlement, than one’s income level.

As stated in this news story

http://www.insideedition.com/investigative/10721-new-york-woman-trying-to-kick-alleged-socialite-squatter-out-of-apartment

Melissa Berkelhammer is a socialite and has a classy pedigree. She has degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. A social butterfly, she was a regular fixture at charity events around New York City. But some people say this socialite is also a squatter.

A friend of Melissa’s, Julianne Michelle, allowed her to move into her apartment for 3 weeks, as Melissa claimed that her apartment was being renovated. But after moving in, not only did Melissa refuse to leave, but she brought her elderly mother in to live there with her!! Fifteen months later, the two squatters are still there, in spite of Julianne’s efforts to get her out.

Julianne Michelle is an actress who became friends with Melissa. One day Julianne says Melissa asked if she could stay at her apartment because her’s was being renovated.

“I knew her from the charity circuit,” Julianne said. “We’d say hello. She seemed pleasant enough.”

So she let Melissa move into her swanky apartment on the “Avenue of Avenues” – Fifth Avenue, with a view of Central Park. Woody Allen used to live in the building.

“I figured two or three weeks, what’s the worst that can happen?” Julianne said.

That was in March 2014. Fifteen months later, Melissa’s still there! And get this, her elderly mother moved in, too!

Julianne and her mother, Jocelyn, told INSIDE EDITION’s Les Trent they’ve been trying to evict the Berkelhammers for months.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” Jocelyn said. “They refuse to leave. They have to live in an Upper East Side apartment with a doorman.”

Trent asked, “How much stuff does she have at your place?”

“A lot,” Julianne explained. “I have never seen anyone with more designer shoes, hand bags or clothes. She has about 50 bags in luggage and portable wardrobes. I lock myself in my bedroom. I feel so confined to that space. I can’t even use my living room or my kitchen. She’s sort of taken over everything with her belongings and her clothes.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Julianne says the mother/daughter duo have relentless arguments over money.

“Oh my God! You told me I was going to be so… You told me I was going to be so rich!” Melissa can be heard yelling at her mother in an audio recording. I can’t take you anymore. … I want my $20 million!”

This is one of the many sad and appalling examples of the landlord or master tenant version of “no good deed goes unpunished”

 

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Torrez Moore and other “Sovereign Citizens” Squat in Foreclosed homes in Illinois

Torrez Moore is a member of the group of “Sovereign Citizens” who claim that the laws of the United States do not apply to them. How convenient, as this viewpoint allows them to steal other’s property, claim it as their own, and try to rent it out and make criminal profits from other’s homes.

Torrez Moore, David Farr, Raymond Trimble, and Arshad Thomas were charged as described by this law enforcement officer:

“they…engaged in a pattern of illegal activity in which they unlawfully claimed foreclosed or vacant properties as their own and either moved into the property themselves or rented the home to a third party and acted as a landlord. On multiple occasions the defendant unlawfully entered the properties, changed the locks and then filed fraudulent documents with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office to verify alleged ownership of the property.”

They claim to belong to the “Sovereign Nation”of Moors which is a group of so-called Sovereign Citizens:

Prosecutors also said the men are part of the Sovereign Nation, or Moors, and “claim that they do not recognize the government as having jurisdiction over them, nor do they recognize the authority of most law enforcement agencies.”

However, probably to his dismay, Torrez apparently is subject to US law, as he’s been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Thank you US justice system.

Following a three-day trial at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building, 2600 S. California Ave., Moore was convicted on Oct. 21, 2016, of Class X theft, Class X financial institution fraud and continuing a financial crimes enterprise

According to court records, several counts were merged, and IDOC records show that Moore was convicted of theft of property worth over $1 million.

Some new laws in Illinois make it a little bit easier for owners to protect their properties from others filing fake ownership documents on them:

In August 2015, a new law made it possible for property owners, or anyone who is a party to court proceedings, such as a bank, to file a petition with a judge asking for a seal on a property that would shield it from any filings.

Last August, a law was passed that requires local government zoning boards to be alerted by the court if any group or individual attempts to claim ownership of property under the Abandoned Housing Rehabilitation Act.

Jude Pischke squats in Tennessee Home for 2 years

Jude Pischke was able to sqaut for 2 years in a home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, before the law caught up with him.

See a video here, where near the end of the video, you can see him coming at a news crew with an axe:

Jude Pischke squatter

Apparently he discovered that a bank owned the home, it had been pulled from sale, and he seized the opportunity. He moved in and paid the back taxes on the property to prevent it from being repossessed.
He had previously illegally moved a house to another property, which resulted in that home being condemned.
The bank that owned the home had not known what was happening there until the news crew alerted them to the issue.

Pischke pleaded guilty to one count of reckless aggravated assault in the case involving the Channel 5 news crew and received two years of probation, according to court documents.

The court also required Pischke vacate the home by Sunday and stay away from the property thereafter.

The Mt Juliet home where Pischke squatted:

Mt Juliet home

Jude Pischke:

Jude Pischke

https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/06/05/man-accused-squatting-mt-juliet-home-2-years-has-left/371314001/

Gregory Russell, Serial “Cash for Keys” Squatter

Sophisticated squatters know how to work the system. They know which houses to squat in, where, and they know how long they can expect to stay. They know how to extort property owners, asking for “cash for keys”, or demanding money in exchange for leaving the owner’s home. Gregory Russell is one of these professional squatters and scammers.

As described in this article,

https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Cash-For-Keys-115787804.html

He moves (or rather, breaks into) homes which are being foreclosed, and then demands money from the bank in order to move out.

“Mr. Russell is a professional con-man,” says Mark Sussman, VP of Gateway Bank.

Sussman says Russell requested $25,000 from the bank to move out.

“This was extortion,” says Sussman.

He says Gateway Bank will pay squatters to move out of foreclosures, but no more than $5,000.

Gregory Russell is the heavyset black man on the left in the photo.

Gregory Russell (2)

It seems more than ridiculous to many that property owners should be forced to pay criminals just to remove the trespassers. It seems criminal. ANd this goes for ALL squatters, not just those who break into homes — those who receive an eviction notice and refuse to leave, are also squatters.

So why would a bank offer to pay a squatter to get out of a house that the bank owns?

“It is less expensive for the financial institutions to pay someone to move out of the house than to take them to court,” says Rodriguez.

Banks tell NBCLA it can cost $100,000 and take more than a year to evict a squatter through the court process. But neighbors, who live near the Ladera Heights home where we’ve recently seen Russell, think law enforcement should be tougher on squatters.

“Arrest them and they should prosecute them,” says one neighbor who asked not to be identified.

Karissa Norton and Darnell Harris, Squatters, Won’t Pay Rent Because they don’t like their Landlord

Deadbeats Karissa Norton, squatting with Darnell Harris in an apartment in New Jersey, told reporter Howard Thompson that they weren’t paying rent because they didn’t like their landlord. So they stopped paying 3 months after moving in, and are now 5 months behind in rent. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the money, they just didn’t want to pay, because they dont’ like their landlord, saying that all she cares about is money. Well yeah, if you haven’t paid rent in 5 months, for sure, all you are going to hear about from your landlord is that you owe her MONEY.

Asked by the reporter why she wouldn’t work things out with her landlord, Karissa said,

“I don’t want to work nothing out with her. I don’t like her.”

 

So now I guess rent is optional — if you don’t really like your landlord then you don’t have to pay.

Darnell Harris had a job that paid $90,000 a year, but he refused to pay rent, and when the owner tried to evict he and Karissa, the two of them just began to engage in games and delay tactics to stall the owner from removing them.

The owner, Marge El, does not have enough money to hire an attorney.

See more here:

http://pix11.com/2018/01/18/howard-meets-squatter-with-money/

Meet “Squattus Subdividus”, Francisco Martinez, who squats and then subdivides homes

Apparently there are all variety of squatters and methods of squatting, cheating, stealing and illegally profiting from other’s property. One new one is called the “Squattus Subdividus”, described in this article:

http://pix11.com/2017/08/24/howard-finally-finds-subdividing-squatter/

This refers to Francisco Martinez, a squatter “of the worst kind”, who began remodeling the house in the Bronx, New York, which he was illegally squatting in, in order to rent out more rooms and profit from his illegal presence in the home.

The owners have been trying to get him out since March 2017, and by September 2017 there was no progress and all they were doing was setting court dates. Meanwhile, Squattus Subdividus was pretending he could not speak English and refusing to cooperate, asking for more time, through his “legal aid team”. Why would any decent legal aid anyone support this malicious scamming squatter is beyond me.

An update as of October 2017: as reported in this update on the story

http://pix11.com/2017/10/26/subdividing-squatter-still-playing-games/

Francisco was supposed to move out on September 30th. He did not, and ended up actually suing the homeowners who were trying to evict him, with a lawsuit containing all kinds of nonsense. This goes to show even more forcefully, how broken is the system that victimizes property owners and protects the rights of malicious squatters.

Another update: as of November 2 2017, this disgusting piece of work was finally kicked out of the home he’d been squatting in for nearly 9 months.

http://pix11.com/2017/11/02/howard-finally-sees-subdividing-squatter-get-the-boot/

Homeless Squatters Carlos Ojeda Chaparro and Sabrina Holm Set Fire to House

Two formerly homeless squatters set fire to a house in Salt Lake City in August 2017, as reported here:

http://fox13now.com/2017/08/22/pair-accused-of-squatting-in-slc-home-setting-it-ablaze-identified/

Police arrested the duo, but as the article notes,

Meanwhile, this marks the 35th time Carlos Chaparro has been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail.

He and Holm remain behind bars on multiple charges, the most serious being aggravated arson.

How is it that someone can be arrested and booked into jail 35 times….and still out on the streets to commit more crimes?

Victoria Gregersen, “White Collar Criminal”, Squats in Home in Fair Oaks, CA

A woman whom court records later identified as Victoria Gregersen, and termed a “white collar criminal” has taken over a house owned by Sandra Forbes, that was for sale in Fair Oaks, California, and refuses to leave, as described in this article:

http://fox40.com/2016/05/05/fair-oaks-homeowners-desperate-to-get-alleged-squatter-out-of-their-house/

As the sheriff says, many squatters know just how to manipulate and exploit the loopholes in the law (glaring loopholes, I should say, that badly need to be closed up) in order to perpetrate their crimes:

Locks were changed and furniture moved in. Effectively making the homeowners trespassers on their own property.

Despite many requests for the alleged squatter to leave, she simply wasn’t budging. Even producing what the Forbes’ say is a fake lease and a SMUD Bill.

Sgt. Tony Turnbull with the Sacramento County Sheriffs Department said Thursday that many squatters are highly educated, and they have learned the loopholes that will keep them from being arrested.

How incredibly hard it must be, to be the homeowner in this situation, as
Ms Forbes describes:

The woman is described by neighbors as a white-collar criminal. She’s clean cut, an active member of the community, talkative, even friendly.

One neighbor who chose to remain anonymous said, “She’s very nice, I was going to welcome her to the neighborhood.”

But to Forbes and her husband, the woman is a real life nightmare.

“To add insult to injury, she gets to live in the house and have her yellow rose bush, and cut down my trees, and do whatever she wants, and there is nothing I can do,” said Forbes.

The case is now a civil matter and will need to be settled with attorneys.

Update: the squatter eventually filed a restraining order against the property owner. See here:

http://www.newser.com/story/225195/accused-squatter-files-restraining-order-against-homeowner.html

This article identifies the squatter:

http://fox40.com/2016/06/02/outrage-grows-as-battle-with-squatter-in-fair-oaks-continues/

Talk about the victim being further victimized!!

How is it possible that legislators have not addressed this massively serious problem, that someone can break into a home (a criminal act) and squat there, and the police can’t do a thing, saying it’s a “civil matter for attorneys”?

Forbes began a petition to try to obtain legal changes so that others don’t have to go through this kind of nightmare.

The end goal is capturing the attention of California lawmakers, with the hope that homeowners will someday have more rights in what many call an unfair battle.

Casey and Tricia Bates Squat into Home when Family Goes on Vacation

In some places in California, apparently you can’t even risk going on vacation, because while you’re gone someone might break in, squat, steal your things and destroy your property. And then when you come to kick them out, who knows, as with so many other cases of squatting, the police might come and tell you that the squatters have a “right” to be there!

A woman in Olivehurst, CA went on vacation for 3 weeks, and when she came back, she found people living in her house. Casey and Tricia Bates were there, and were arrested by police. They did $8000 in damage while squatting in the house, destroying sheetrock and furniture, spray-painting the walls.

https://www.tmj4.com/news/national/squatters-take-over-home-during-familys-vacation

Here’s another scary story of a Tulsa, Oklahoma woman who went on vacation to Mexico, and when she returned home she found 10 squatters had moved into her home, and refused to leave:

Crystal Taylor says it happened to her at her home in Broken Arrow, located outside Tulsa.

Taylor came home from a vacation in Cabo to find 6 to 10 people were living in her home along with five cats and a dog. She also says the home was severely damaged.

“It was a shock,” she told Inside Edition: “I didn’t understand how people could do that. I was so furious. There was nothing I could do.”

http://www.cbs8.com/story/32865060/woman-returns-from-vacation-and-says-found-up-to-10-squatters-living-in-her-home

Tanisha Diaz and Kadijah Catley Squat and “Steal” Homes in Philadelphia: “If Y’All Want Us to Leave, you Have to Give Us Something.”

Two women in Philadelphia are accused of “stealing homes” — breaking into other’s homes by drilling out the locks, and squatting. They’ve been doing it all over town, apparently.

Their strategy is that they break in, squat, and then demand a payment from the homeowner in exchange for leaving.

The news team which covered this story, Action News Troubleshooters, tracked down a squatter who fesses up to her illegal involvement and explains just how easy it is for squatters to take over your home.

“If y’all want us to leave now, you have to give us something,” says a masked woman in their undercover video. The woman behind this mask is Taniesha Diaz, hiding her face after Action News busted her and others living illegally in a Northwood home.

And they can get away with this brazen criminal crap, because the laws are so idiotic, and so very stacked against property owners. Instead of receiving a firm kick to their heinies, the malicious squatters can depend on bad laws to protect them. Police, when they arrive, if they come at all, will slouch away saying that it’s a civil matter and they can’t do anything about it.

Regarding the most recently “stolen” home:

The four bedroom, two bath property has been owned by Matthew Waychoff for 10 years.

“The house was move-in ready,” said Waychoff.

That makes it the perfect place for squatters to move in. Waychoff says neighbors frantically called on him in the middle of the night saying burglars had broken in.

He says the squatters showed police a fake lease and officers refused to throw them out.

As is far too common with abuses and crimes perpetrated against property owners, the victimized homeowners have felt treated as if they are the ones who are the criminals.

Waychoff, and other homeowners like the McGees, said they’ve been victimized by squatters.
“We feel like we are the criminals,” said Don McGee.

But both said they’d been told there was little police could do. That was until law enforcement saw our report.

“That opened our eyes and gave us the probable cause with the DA’s office to go after her for the extortion and the other related offenses,” said Philadelphia Police Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum.

Police said after seeing our interview with Diaz, and the Facebook video we showed of her taking an expensive vacation to Miami, they had enough evidence to put Diaz behind bars.

“She just flat out didn’t care, and was bold, just bold,” said Rosenbaum. “I immediately contacted the District Attorney’s office, and was able to work with them and Detective Sullivan to get the arrest warrant together.”

Diaz and Catley are now to be charged with extortion, burglary and criminal trespass.

See more in the articles:

http://6abc.com/2nd-alleged-squatter-surrenders;-says-i-feel-bad/2774292/

And

http://6abc.com/squatters-taking-over-countless-philadelphia-homes/2335744/

Police say that they are seeking to change laws

Lt. Rosenbaum said police are now working on changing their policies so they can remove anyone illegally occupying a home.
They said they hope this case will serve as a warning to other would-be squatters.

Tales from the Landlord Side