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Longboat Key Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 2 years ago

Video voyeurism suspect files homestead claim to avoid Longboat forfeiture

Wayne Natt, through his attorney, has claimed homestead exemption on his 2017 tax bill, constitutionally protecting his home from "forced sale under process of any court."
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Video voyeurism suspect Wayne Natt, whose 623 Cedars Court condo has been seized by the Longboat Key Police Department, has cited constitutionally protected residency in effort to curb police efforts for court-ordered forfeiture of his property.

Natt's claims to a homestead exemption for his Cedars East home — declaring legally that he owns the property and uses it as his or his dependents' permanent residence in order to receive a $50,000 property tax break — appears on his 2017 property tax bill, according to Manatee County Appraiser’s records.  

The Florida constitution exempts houses with homestead claims “from forced sale under process of any court.” This year is the first in which the condo was claimed as a homestead, said Manatee County Appraiser Exemptions Director Scott Tussing.

Michael Gelety, an attorney representing Natt’s interests in the police department's civil case against his client’s property, did not immediately return requests for comment.

Law enforcement did know about this exemption before they filed the case for forfeiture with the 12th Circuit Court, Police Chief Pete Cumming said.

“But it was spotty and he missed homestead exemptions in the past,” Cumming said of Natt’s claim for homestead filed with the court Tuesday, Nov. 28. “The fact that he rented the property regularly would violate the exemption and be a misdemeanor.”

Natt’s claim for homestead exemption is a maneuver Cumming said he and the department’s council, Regina Kardash of Persson and Cohen, P.A., have a planned strategy to counteract, Cumming said.

Kardash decline request for comment.

“I’m not interested in the continued press coverage of this [case],” Kardash said.

Longboat Commissioners approved the pursuit of seizure and forfeiture of the condo at 623 Cedars Court Nov. 6 by a vote for 4-3 at the behest of the Longboat Key Police Department and Town Manager Dave Bullock. 

Florida statue allows law enforcement to seize and seek forfeiture of a property if it believes the property had been used as an object to pursue felony activity. Nearly 300 cases of civil forfeiture have been filed with Manatee and Sarasota county courts since 2001, none of which involved Longboat Key Police Department, according to a Longboat Observer analysis. 

Most seizure and forfeiture cases in the last 15 years involved cash, a vehicle or both. Just one case of real property forfeiture had been decided in favor of law enforcement in that time, according to analysis. 


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