Tenants of Arbor Glen Mobile Home Park danced in the street to publicly celebrate the arrest of their landlord, Fred Stockett, on Wednesday after he was taken into custody around 4:30 p.m.
Stockett was arrested on account of grand theft, elder abuse and committing a felony while out on bail for another felony.
The grand theft charge stems from Stockett charging tenants for rent but not providing potable tap water or garbage collection service, according to Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander.
"He basically defrauded them out of money by not providing services that were a part of the rental agreement," Alexander said.
Stockett has been under pressure from state agencies after he switched the park's tap water to an on-site well without going through the permitting process or other standard protocol required for creating a new public water system.
Stockett did not inform the tenants of the water switch, and several tenants became sick from consuming water that tested positive for total coliform, a bacteria that indicates contamination.
"It feels like someone cares now about what's going in the park with elder abuse, with not having water at people's houses," said park tenant Linda Wilson. "Now the elders can have peace of mind, and they won't be scared like they have been."
Stockett moved some tenants' mobile homes to another one of his properties in Klamath, but left several homes at Arbor Glen, issuing 60-day eviction notices that were not valid, according to state officials.
Stockett shut the park's water off last week, despite a notice from state officials that the water should remain on, even if it is only being used for sewage purposes.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development issued Stockett an order on Monday that said if he had not turned the park's water back on by 1 p.m. Thursday that the state would suspend his license to operate theArbor Glen Mobile Home and RV park.
Faucets still ran dry past the 1 p.m. deadline, prompting the state to suspend the license indefinitely.
The notice of suspension states that Arbor Glen is no longer "legally operational," no longer a "legitimate business," and it is no longer allowed to legally collect rent.
"Just because his license is suspended doesn't mean his obligation to residents ends," said HCD spokesman Colin Parent, adding that the park still needs to comply with the requirement to provide potable water through a permitted tap system.
In addition to the suspension, the state planned to issue a criminal complaint for willful violation of the health and safety code.
In January, Stockett was charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, and posted bail; hence his being arrested on suspicion of committing a felony while out on bail for another felony. That charge is an enhancement that could carry a two year sentence if he is convicted on the other counts, Alexander said.
Stockett was arrested by the Yurok Tribal Police near the pump house that got him into trouble with the state in the first place.
The Del Norte County Sheriff's Office provided the DA's office with the reports necessary to get an arrest warrant from a judge, Alexander said.
"The police reports indicate a pattern of callous exploitation of some real poor folks who couldn't afford to take Mr. Stockett to court," Alexander said. "I'm proud my office was able to even up the playing field and bring them justice."
Alexander also thanked the Yurok Tribe for providing water to the tenants with a potable water truck for the past few weeks and offering their bathing facilities to all Arbor Glen tenants.
"We're worried about the residents, Indian and non-Indian, and we hope that things will get better soon," said Yurok Tribe executive director Troy Fletcher.
Alexander stayed on scene at Arbor Glen until the water was turned back on around 7:20 p.m.
"All we wanted was water-clean water," said park tenant Veronica Downs. "We'll settle for dirty water at the moment just to flush the toilet."
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