A so-called sovereign citizen who is said to have claimed a Calgary rental property as his “embassy” has been removed from the home after a two-year battle with the senior who owned the place.
Calgary police swooped in in the wee-hours of Friday morning and arrested Andreas Pirelli, who investigators confirm is also named Mario Antonacci, on several outstanding warrants issued by courts in Quebec.
By late Friday, media reports indicated that other people in the house had also cleared out.
Rebekah Caverhill said she rented her beige-brick, bungalow-style duplex to Pirelli in November, 2011.
He came at the recommendation of a friend and promised to fix the place up in exchange for a few months’ free rent. But she said he soon identified himself as a follower of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement, claimed the property as an embassy, changed the locks and placed a lien on the home.
Caverhill cried tears of joy when she heard of the arrest Friday.
“I’m so grateful,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press from her home in Sylvan Lake, Alta. “I am glad that this is just about over. I am glad that justice is served. I am glad that I was persistent and I am glad, somehow, people will be warned.”
Pirelli had been facing an eviction notice, but the process hadn’t been expected to occur until Saturday morning. Police didn’t wait, making the arrest on the warrants a few hours after two officers visited the home Thursday evening.
It came off without a hitch, said Calgary police Inspector Darrell Hesse.
“It went relatively smoothly,” he said. “They were able to make contact with that individual and they took him into custody without incident.”
Melissa Costea, manager of Foster and Company Landlord 911, said an eviction will still go ahead on the weekend to remove anyone still in the home.
“Our plans remain the same. We’re still proceeding with the eviction,” she said. “We have received information that there are definitely still people inside. The order is for the premises itself, not the people, so they still need to get out of there.”
Inspector Terry Larson said police will offer their support if needed, but they weren’t expecting more issues.
“I don’t anticipate any further problems with that house,” he said.
Repeated e-mail requests for comment from Pirelli over the last week have not been returned. He had previously responded to a request for comment about Caverhill’s allegations with a warning that he has trademark claims on the name “Andreas Pirelli” and “The First Nations Sovran Embassy of Earth.”
Earlier this week, The Canadian Press was faxed a fee schedule for the alleged unauthorized use of copyrighted names, including Andreas Pirelli and Mario Antonacci. The fax says the fee is $1-million for each use of each name.
Hesse said Pirelli, 48, will remain in custody until he is transported back to Quebec. Details of the transfer will be worked out in the next six days.
Larson said he didn’t anticipate any further charges being laid in Calgary.
He said the case is a prime example of why both renters and landlords need to fill out the appropriate forms.
“If you are a renter or, on the other side, a person who is doing the renting, you need to make sure that you are doing the right thing,” he said. “When there is no paperwork, it causes significant issues for the authories to deal with.”
Pirelli was accused of pushing a landlady down a flight of stairs in Montreal in 2007. Jocelyne Malouf alleges that he broke her pelvis, arm, wrist and ankle. Malouf said she was then picked up and thrown onto the street. An arrest warrant was issued in May, 2010, when he failed to show up during his assault trial.
Malouf said she had allowed the man to house-sit rent-free for five months while its occupant was out of the country. She told The Canadian Press she had problems when she asked him to leave. She said he claimed the property as an embassy and told her he would keep it without paying.
“They’re bringing him back? My God, that’s good news,” Malouf said from Montreal Friday. “I feel pretty good about that. It’s pretty good news for many, many, many people.”
Malouf was angry she didn’t get the closure of a trial after spending two months in hospital.
She hopes authorities will keep Pirelli in jail this time.
“That would be the best situation,” she said. “I think they know what to do with that man.”
The Law Society of British Columbia and B.C. Notaries have issued warnings about Freemen and, in a bulletin last year, the society estimated the group could number as many as 30,000 in Canada.
RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are developing awareness materials for front-line officers and the movement is the subject of upcoming policing seminars in Vancouver and Toronto.
The FBI considers the movement a domestic terror threat in the United States, but a Freemen-on-the-Land spokesman told The Canadian Press earlier this month it does not advocate violence and it has no place in the movement.
Caverhill said she is looking forward to moving on.
“The next step I think is to go into the house to assess the damage and to get on with my life and to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s going to be expensive ... but every day that I get up and I am breathing, I say ‘thank you God.’
“I’m just happy that no one was hurt.”