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Longboat Key Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 4 years ago

Top Story - October: Longboat police seek tenants, pursue property in video voyeurism case

Catch up on the top news items of 2017 with the Observer's Digital Year in Review.

In October, Longboat Key Police began a search for tenants who stayed in a vacation rental owned by a man charged with video voyeurism. In the meantime, the town commission is moving to confiscate the property

Wayne Natt, the owner of a condo on 623 Cedars Court, was arrested Sept. 29. He was accused of installing cameras and microphones in inconspicuous locations, such as inside fire alarms, and recording at least one couple without their knowledge. In that incident, a naked man was caught on camera. 

According to an arrest affidavit, one camera was found in the property’s master bedroom, aimed at the bed. Another was found in a fire alarm on the living room ceiling.

Natt was released from jail on Oct. 4 on  $1,500 bond. He later pleaded not guilty to the charge. On Nov. 17, he was charged with three more counts of felony video voyeurism after police said they found more evidence in a series of videos taken from cameras on the property.

As Natt faces charges, the town has advanced its pursuit of the property. Longboat police said they built a case to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the condo was used to commit a felony.

The property at 623 Cedars Court.

On Nov. 6, Longboat police and then-Town Manager Dave Bullock encouraged the town to pursue the property, and in a 4-3 vote the commission decided to do so. 

The courts agreed with the town and the police, and on Nov. 29 the town was able to seize the property

Now the town is working on a complaint for permanent forfeiture, but the town must meet a higher burden of proof for forfeiture — beyond a reasonable doubt — than it needed to seize the home.

If the town wins, it can retain property, salvage or trade it to a public or nonprofit organization or sell it. Any funds received from selling a property may be used, in order of priority, to pay court liens, preserve the property, pay costs of the forfeiture proceedings, and fund special law enforcement trusts, training or equipment.

County property records list the value of 623 Cedars Court at about $170,000. 

If the town loses, they will be without the property and responsible for all corresponding legal fees. Only once since 2001 has a jurisdiction in Manatee or Sarasota counties taken a property through this process. 

While some have supported the effort, the pursuit of the property has not sat well with all Longboat residents. Some have voiced concerns about how the forfeiture could hurt property values, while others are worried the effort could lead town governments to overstep their authority in the future. 

“[T]he Commission urgently needs to stop this train before it wrecks incalculable damage to the reputation and property values of (the neighborhood) and of the entire community of Longboat Key,” wrote resident Robin Radin in an email to commissioners. 




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