Damian Echauri finally got the keys to his million-dollar Coral Gables house Wednesday after police ordered a family of squatters to leave.
Inside the five-bedroom home at 601 Sunset Dr., he found sinks missing, mattresses and box springs stacked on the floors and a poster of Scarfaces Tony Montana hanging in the dining room.
They thought they knew how to play the system, Echauri said as detectives and uniformed officers walked in and out and motorists along the leafy street lined with luxury homes slowed to gawk. But theyre trespassing.
Police cited Robert Ramos, 33, his wife Ana Alvarez, 52, and her son Jonathan, 27, for trespassing Wednesday after finding they had no valid lease to be in the home.
After installing new locks, Echauri agreed to give the family until midnight to load up three U-Haul trucks, and tow away a broken down Range Rover that had been sitting in the driveway for months.
The sprawling house sitting on a walled, 31,000-square-foot lot came under scrutiny earlier this month when city commissioners asked staffers to look into beefing up the citys code on abandoned property.
City officials had suspected since September that the family was squatting in the house around the corner from CocoPlum, but its ownership was complicated by a sketchy history that included a foreclosure suit and a mysterious deed that Echauri said was forged.
Echauri and his wife bought the house in 1997, when it was first in foreclosure and fixed it up by installing new appliances, marble floors and a home theater system. When they divorced in 2008, Echauri said he gave his wife the majority of the house as part of a settlement. She was supposed to sell it so they could divide the proceeds, but when she couldnt, she stopped paying the mortgage. J.P. Morgan Chase initiated foreclosure proceedings.
In November, Echauris son spotted an ad on Craigslist advertising a room in the house for rent. Echauri confronted the family, but police were unable to determine the rightful owner and advised him to seek eviction.
When city officials asked for proof that they were legally in the house, they turned over what officials said was a forged lease. Police opened an investigation and asked the tenants to come in with other proof, they refused.
Even after being told, youre here illegally, they refused to leave, said police spokesman Dean Wellingoff. Its a complex issue any time you deal with foreclosure.
On Wednesday, when police arrived, they found a young child living in the house, as well as a new tenant.
Echauri, his parents and his son stood by Wednesday, along with police, waiting for the family to pack up several U-Haul trucks and leave. The familys American Bulldog, secured in a crate, could be heard barking inside.
At one point, two people could be heard arguing in Spanish.
A woman yelled I can't do it all alone, dont you understand!
How the family managed to move into the home remains unanswered. On Wednesday, Echauri said he found that a back glass door had been replaced. He also discovered that the locks had been replaced.
Echauri said three central air-conditioning units had been stolen and replaced with window units. And except for a dishwasher, the high-end appliances he installed had been removed and cheaper ones put in their place.
I dont know if theyre victims or not, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, said Echauri, who plans to stay in house overnight Wednesday. He said he will be moving back temporarily. Asked whether he would try to rescue it from foreclosure, he answered, Thats going to be chapter three. Were still working on chapter two.
Miami Herald intern Jessica DeLeon contributed to this report.