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Professional Squatters Take Over Home Convince Police its Theirs

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

“Squatters Rights” takes on a whole new meaning when property owners, who listed their home for sale—return to find an unknown family physically living in their Long Beach residence. Squatters even moved in major appliances—confusing evicting police officer by providing an electric utility bill in their name, as false proof of residence.
Michelle Mendoza told the news that she and her husband couldn’t believe it when they found out that a couple, complete with a young child, had moved into their vacant home located on 68th Way in Long Beach, California. The married couple had moved out of the house about six months previous, when they’d listed the home for sale through a local realtor. Apparently the realtor wasn’t too up on his game, in showing the home to potential buyers, or would have been aware of the squatting.
The squatters spent about two weeks in the Mendoza residence before they were caught in the act of living in someone else’s home. "They [the squatters] had [moved in] a stove, a refrigerator -- I mean it was like it was their [family] home," said the real property owner, Michelle Mendoza. Neighbors didn’t know anything was awry or that squatters were living there—neighbors in surrounding homes had assumed that the Phillips family of three, which was actually squatting on the Mendoza property, had purchased or rented the house. "I didn't know they moved in illegally, but found out 'cause the house owners came to check on their house," said one neighbor.
The Mendozas confronted the squatters that were living in their house—only to be verbally told by the squatters that the Mendozas, who own the home, were trespassing on "their" property.
The Mendozas distributed flyers to neighbors, warning the neighborhood about the squatters, and finally calling the Long Beach Police Department.
That’s when things became even stranger: When police officers arrived at the Long Beach Mendoza home, the squatters produced a utility bill from Southern California Edison in one of their own names—falsely representing to police that the property actually belonged to them, the squatters, and that the Mendozas were trespassing.
The squatters have been identified as Morris Phillips and Lula Mae Phillips. The utility bill matched up, confirming identity—and what police officers took as proof that the home belonged to the Phillips. Southern California Edison, a major utility company, requires no proof of ownership or a rental agreement to turn on power to vacant homes. In fact anyone can set up the electric company utility billing in their own name—as long as their credit rating passes muster to establish an account.
The squatters had been smart—establishing a utility account, matching the address, under their own name. When officers asked the squatters for proof of residence, they produced the bill—listed to a Mr. Morris Phillips.
Long Beach investigating police officers claim that because they had no immediate proof to the opposite, or as to whether the property had been sold or rented to another party other than the Mendozas, they couldn't evict the squatters living in the Mendoza home. "It's not fair. It's not right. Everyone has to pay their bills, pay their mortgage," said Michelle Mendoza in reaction to the invading squatters and police reaction. "I pay mortgage. It's just not right they [the invading squatters] get to live for free."
After a detective from the Long Beach Police Department eventually came out to the Mendoza home, squatters Morris Phillips and Lula Mae Phillips finally admitted they were there illegally-- agreeing to move out of the home they’d never owned or rented. Hours later, the Mendozas took pictures of a moving truck that was picking up the squatters' furniture and belongings.
Real estate attorney Steven Spierer says it could have taken months or even longer, for the Mendozas to claim their own property, had the squatters put up a fight about the issue. "The first thing they can do [as a squatter] is say to the police, 'I own this house,' or 'I live in this house as a tenant, I have a right to be here.' The police are going to look at that and say this is a civil matter, we're not going to decide who owns this house, and we're not going to make an arrest for trespass," says Spierer.
"Someone can steal your car, you can report it for grand theft auto and the police can get your vehicle back," said a neighbor. "But someone can walk in your house and steal your house and the police can't do anything," he said, in reaction to the Mendoza squatter incident.
The Mendozas think the Phillips trio might be considered professional squatters—repeatedly moving from vacant home to vacant home. Before moving into the Mendoza house, the family of three had squatted in a foreclosed home located only one block away in Long Beach. Prior to squatting in that previous house, they’d squatted in yet another Long Beach home—located just two blocks away from that residence. Neighbors say the Phillips squatters had lived for two months in the first area home.
Including the Mendoza incident, the squatting family had illegally resided in a total of three homes--in the same, small Long Beach neighborhood.
You know you’re a professional squatter when you move in your own refrigerator and stove--and have your own moving crew to move your squatting ass to the next location.


Long Beach, CA
United States
33° 46' 1.0632" N, 118° 11' 21.246" W
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