North Port Police Department is the only agency to successfully seize real property in Manatee and Sarasota Counties since 2001 — so how does its case stack up against the case brought by Longboat Key Police Department.
Longboat Key Police Department’s pursuit of civil forfeiture against the condominium unit at 623 Cedars Court is far from common — one case of real property forfeiture brought to court since 2001 in Sarasota and Manatee counties has been successful.
Many parallels exist between Longboat Key Police Department’s case and the North Port Police Department’s argument for seizing a drug house at 5329 Malamin Road, which was forfeited to the city in 2015 and sold at public auction.
“That was an option that we took to help stop the drug nuisance and, in turn, turn around a problem house to where now good Samaritans live,” said North Port Police Department Capt. Chris Morales.
Here’s how components of the two cases compare:
A 623 Cedars Court short-term tenant called police in September after he thought he’d found hidden cameras in the residence. A woman who overdosed at 5329 Malamin Road told police that many people came to the house to use methamphetamine and heroine, according to court records.
Police found illegal materials when they searched the residences in both cases.
Videos found on storage devices in 623 Cedars Court were timestamped back to 2008, police said. A woman found at the 5329 Malamin Road said many drug users used the house “because of its reputation for being a ‘safe haven,’” according to court records.
“We were getting several calls and making several drug arrests [at the property],” Morales said.
Wyatt Natt, the owner of 623 Cedars Court, has been charged with four counts of felony video voyeurism. Dana Brannon, the former homeowner of 5329 Malamin Road, was charged with felony public nuisance.
In each of these cases, police alleged the crimes could not have been committed if the suspects did not own the homes that law enforcement sought as subjects of forfeiture.
Morales said Brannon was found guilty in a felony public nuisance prosecution. Natt has not been tried but has pleaded not guilty.
It took the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota County just more than three months to decide in favor of North Port in regard to the home at 5329 Malamin Road, according to court documents.
“It was one of the great cases of a seizure of a home by the police department where it was being used as a drug house and the elements of the nexus were there to stop the criminal activity happening at that house,” Morales said. “It was a great, textbook seizure.”
The case involving 623 Cedars Court remains open.