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Caretaker-turned-squatter in Queens: Sewage flood, money demands and other allegations emerge in NYC suburb

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The Landa family has struggled to evict a would-be squatter from their $2 million dream home, revealing to Fox News Digital allegations of trying to bleed them financially through utilities abuse and causing a sewage flood. 

“He really knows the system and how to get by it on his own without an attorney, and living rent-free, renting out rooms, drawing income, vandalizing,” Joseph Landa claimed. He hoped others can learn from their story about the difficulty of dealing with squatters, and hopefully it will show “what they can get into with certain situations.” 

Brett Flores, 32, lived and worked in the Douglaston home caring for Bernand Fernandez, 80, until Fernandez died Jan. 12, 2023. Flores refused to leave, claiming Fernandez gave him permission to remain, according to Anthony Mordente, the lawyer for the Landa family.

The Landa family, who calim they had lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, bought the house where Flores is allegedly squatting for $2 million, according to a Zillow posting. It’s next door to their own home, and they hoped to have their sons live there and help take care of their brother who has Down syndrome, especially once their parents die, according to ABC 7. 

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Dennis O’Sullivan, who represents Flores, intended to release a statement on Friday that he claimed would “turn the narrative on its head,” suggesting the Landas “are not the victims as they described.” But he decided to delay its release. 

O’Sullivan said he did not know if his client had a job and then offered no other comment to inquiries made Friday. 

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Flores had allegedly claimed he was owed money and would leave the property once paid, asking for “in excess of $100,000” according to Mordente, the lawyer for the family. And the Landas revealed Friday they had offered to pay him what he asked.

“We were ready to cough it up, but when we saw his record and met with someone that gave us a brief of his past deeds, we started to get really scared,” Susana Landa said, adding that it prompted them to hire a security guard. 

“The money’s on the table. We’ve offered the money with our attorney in court in front of a judge, and he said ‘not enough,'” she added. “So, money’s there, which is fine – painful, and I know what we’re going to be faced with, which will be a house totally torn apart.” 

Flores is accused by the Landas of flooding the backyard after a cesspool got clogged and water seeped into the yard. Video provided to Fox News Digital showed a hole in the ground that exposed the entry to the sewerage. The excavation required the Landas to tear up a porch that ran along the side of the house and remove many of the plants that grew in the yard, leaving a nearly barren landscape. 

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The Landas would not divulge the identity of who had provided them with information on Flores’ alleged past deeds nor the full amount offered to him. O’Sullivan also offered no comment on Thursday when asked about allegations his client had requested money to vacate the premises. 

What the Landas claim they find more frustrating is that their background information claims to reveal that Flores had “done this before” in other states, such as California and Ohio.

The Landas said that neighbors had complained about Flores, and they particularly felt sorry for one neighbor across the street from the disputed home, saying their “heart goes out to her and her family, but this is completely out of our hands.”

Flores was allegedly using the property to rent out rooms, which the Landas claim he did even before Fernandez died. Flores had taken care of Fernandez for over two years and may have started renting rooms as early as October 2022, it was alleged. 

Flores has advertised on Homesta, a hospitality site similar to Airbnb, renting out rooms for $50 a night for “private rooms” at the house, welcoming “males, females, couples, families, students” as prospective renters. One screenshot provided by the Landas showed a confirmation from a prospective renter for the month of March 2024, paying $2,650 for the “King’s Room.”  

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“While the owner, the original one, was there, who was disabled, [Flores] was renting and probably will be telling the owner, ‘This is a friend of mine who’s here for a couple of days,’ and meanwhile he was collecting money from all these people,” Joseph Landa claimed. 

Flores is also accused of trying to “punish” the family by keeping on lights and heating all night, trying to drive up bills that cost them from $3,200 to $3,800 because he “keeps the windows open and the lights on 24/7.” 

The couple can’t turn off the utilities as squatters in New York have protection against such treatment, especially during the winter. A homeowner in dispute has to go through court to evict a squatter. And even if the Landas won their case, they could not personally remove Flores, requiring the assistance of the sheriff’s office. 

The Landas would incur a fine if they tried to force Flores out by cutting utilities. In response to suggestions that their approach to Flores could appear as “intimidation,” the Landas denied that was the case.

The Landas and Flores are scheduled to next appear in court in April. 

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