Squatting – or breaking into foreclosed homes – plagues the Inland Empire. A Beverly Hills attorney is among the accused. Jacob Rascon reports from Moreno Valley for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Nov. 19, 2012.
An attorney from Beverly Hills has been accused of squatting – or illegally living in a foreclosed home – in the Inland Empire.
“All I want to say is I’m completely innocent of all charges. I do not want to make any statements,” said Joseph Sclafani. “These are completely unbelievable accusations.”
As an attorney, Sclafani helps protect communities from squatters and vandals but last year the Riverside District Attorney’s office said he broke into a home, lived there illegally for a month and when police told him to get out, he personally trashed the house.
“I’m just tired of it,” said Rob Gilbert, president of the local homeowners’ association. Gilbert claims he watched Sclafani wreak havoc in the home. Walls in the home were smeared with feces and toilets were filled with quick cement.
“I see his car there. I show up what’s going on he’s breaking this countertop with a pipe. He yells at me, tells me he’s going to kill me, that he’s member of the Italian mafia,” Gilbert said.
Sclafani vehemently denied those claims, adding that evidence revealed later in court will prove he’s innocent.
Squatting has plagued the Inland Empire, where one contractor says nearly all of his work is done.
“A lot of calls from the IE. At least a hundred homes a month,” said Eric Barnes, a contractor who fixes up trashed homes around Southern California.
Councilman Jess Molina has proposed a city ordinance to prevent these problems and the witness in this case says he’s witnessed many more instances.
“I’ve caught gang bangers in the neighborhood, from LA. Chop shops in the neighborhood. I take my job very seriously to protect my neighborhood,” Gilbert said.