‘Sovereign citizens’ claiming waterfront homes in Woodway, Edmonds

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — A group of people is walking up to families’ front doors in Snohomish County, saying they are the rightful owners of waterfront homes.

The group has taken over homes in different parts of the country, claiming legal ownership of the land beneath it.

In one case, they told a homeowner she was being evicted.

Edmonds detectives say the group knocked on doors in the most upscale neighborhoods in Woodway and Edmonds, identifying themselves as Moorish Sovereign Citizens. They carry official-looking documents, say they own the property and announce they’re moving in.

“They have basically come to say that they’re from this particular group and they’re there to repossess the home and want the people to vacate the premises,” said Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure.

In every case, police were called, and the group cooperated when they were told they were trespassing and could be arrested.

The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Moorish Sovereign Citizens as an extremist group, saying members, “...believe their status as members of a sovereign nation imparts immunity from federal, state and local authorities.”

“Their group believes that they own all of the land between Alaska and Argentina and all the islands in between. Unfortunately, Edmonds falls between that land,” said McClure.

In Maryland, a member of the group moved into a 35,000-square-foot mansion with 12 bedrooms, which was for sale. CBS covered that story.

“Lamont Butler, aka Lamont Maurice L, claimed the mansion for himself. He even provided documents provided by the so-called Moorish National Republic to back it up,” the CBS report said.

In North Carolina, a couple who identified with the Moorish sovereign movement moved into a multimillion dollar home for sale, holding a quit claim deed, and barricaded themselves inside. Their contentious arrest for trespassing rattled neighbors.

Police say the group hasn’t committed a crime, but that it’s visited the same house twice and they expect the takeover attempts to continue.

“Because we’ve had contacts with this group over the last couple of years, we’ve also notified our local partners with the FBI. They have them on the radar as well, so this has been a collaborative effort with law enforcement in the area,” said McClure.

In every case so far, the homes where this has happened have all been recently put on the market, so police are keeping an eye on vacant homes around Snohomish County as well.