Florida Keys

This home survived Hurricane Irma. But it didn’t survive the landlord, cops say

This is the lot where Garshott’s trailer used to be in the Galway Bay mobile home park at mile marker 47.5 oceanside.
This is the lot where Garshott’s trailer used to be in the Galway Bay mobile home park at mile marker 47.5 oceanside. Contributed

A Marathon mobile home park owner was locked up last week after state attorney’s investigators say he unlawfully damaged and ransacked a tenant’s trailer in the weeks following September’s Hurricane Irma in an effort to render the dwelling unlivable in the eyes of city officials.

Ralph Mutchnik, 72, was booked on three felonies Thursday after being arrested at Galway Bay. He’s accused of intentionally destroying a 34-foot trailer belonging to tenant Andrew Garshott and taking his possessions, including thousands of dollars in cash, according to an affidavit filed by state attorney’s office investigators.

“It’s about time,” Garshott said. “He makes life miserable for 95 percent of the people in that park and thinks he can do what he wants with anyone’s property. He has no regard for anybody.”

Mutchnik did not want to comment on the arrest when called Friday. His attorney could not be reached.

Mutchnik
Mutchnik

He owns the mobile home park at mile marker 47.5 oceanside. About two weeks after Category 4 Hurricane Irma left behind widespread devastation in the Keys on Sept. 10, Mutchnik reportedly had an excavator punch two large holes into the roof of Garshott’s 34-foot Prowler, according to the arrest affidavit.

Garshott, who was in Michigan at the time, told investigators Mutchnik broke into his trailer on or around Sept. 26 and stole cash, impact windows and sliding doors and then destroyed the trailer, according to the affidavit. Garshott told the Keynoter in October he had about $6,000 in cash in the trailer at the time it was destroyed.

Joann and Joe Ferrero return to their home in Summerland Key on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, the first day residents were allowed back in following Hurricane Irma. Their home, a trailer that had survived for 65 years, was completely destroyed by the st

Garshott was called by his neighbor Steve Brodeu, who stayed in Marathon for the hurricane and took photos of Garshott’s trailer in the aftermath, when Mutchnik reportedly crushed the trailer and had it removed from the lot. Brodeu’s photos showed the trailer had no significant damage from the storm, according to the affidavit, but the roof holes made it deemed “unsafe” by city building inspectors.

Mutchnik reportedly told Monroe County sheriff’s detectives that Garshott was supposed to pay lot rent in July 2017 in the amount of $11,400 but never did. Instead of evicting Garshott, Mutchnik placed a warehouse lien on the trailer and further destroyed it, the affidavit says. Paperwork about the lien went to the former owners of the trailer because Garshott reportedly never registered it.

The entire warehouse lien process took place while Garshott was in Michigan and he never received any notification about it, the arrest document states. Whether he paid the rent is unclear in the affidavit.

Danielle VanHoven arrives at her father's devastated ​​home in Big Pine Key on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Residents were allowed to return to their homes a week after Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys.

Mutchnik faces felony charges of criminal mischief, grand theft over $20,000 and filing of false documents against real or personal property. He was taken to the Stock Island jail and released at 3:45 p.m. Thursday on $30,000 bond.

Galway Bay is described on its Facebook page as a 55-and-over mobile home community.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

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