In this sprawling Florida retirement town, golf carts rule the road. Seniors drive them everywhere, and even pimp their rides to look like cars.
And as the golf carts go, apparently so does the need for golf-car parts.
Cops say they came across a golf-cart chop shop last week in raiding a house for drugs.
The Villages may seem like a placid place for the sunset years, but it certainly has a wild side.
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In recent months, the community has seen a resident pushing his girlfriend out of his golf cart, a wife attacking her husband after he abandoned her while she was in a restaurant bathroom, and a man riddling his female neighbor’s house with bullets when she said she wouldn’t sleep with him.
And last week, one older resident at 1902 Antonia Place, police say, was unaware of what was happening in his own house: his niece using his home to sell drugs and and dealing in possibly stolen golf cart parts.
Sumter County sheriff's deputies raided the houseafter an informant arranged three drug buys at the address, according to Villages News. When they walked in, they found less than one gram of methampehtamine and less than 20 grams of marijuana, according to a statement.
But in the garage and attic, they found something else: golf cart windshields, wheels, tires and seat cushions, which the sheriff told Villages News suggested its residents were running a “chop shop” to make money off the parts.
One of the golf cart parts found had been reported stolen in Georgia, according to WKMG. Sumter County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Siemer told WFTV that deputies were trying to tie the other parts to “some golf carts stolen in the neighborhood in The Villages here” as well.
Deputies arrested five people in connection with the drugs found on the property: Kenneth Ray Padgett, 53; Charlotte L. Gajewsky, 42; William Anthony Wade Romska, 45; Michael Edward Witkowski, 63; and Kathleen Unrath, 43.
Unrath, the homeowner’s niece, had said she was living in the house to help take care of her uncle, but deputies said they believe she was running both the drug and golf cart operations behind his back.
Neighbors had previously complained about the property’s neglected yard, according to Villages News — one said at a community meeting in early June that he had helped the owner once take out 30 bags of trash from his garage but that much more cleanup was needed.
“I think the garbage men were overwhelmed,” neighbor Don Doggett said, according to the site.
All five arrested are expected to appear in court in early July.
The Villages, home to more than 150,000 people and known for its abundance of golf courses and carts, has been the nation’s fastest growing metro area for years.