A Los Angeles man has been hit with several charges, including criminal mischief, burglary, and criminal trespass after he and several others broke in and claimed legal residency of a Black woman’s vacant property in Newark, New Jersey.
The incident allegedly took place on Thursday, June 17, when a woman — whose name on the social media platform is listed as Shanetta with the handle @regblackgrl — attempted to enter the home she purchased in February 2021 but couldn’t because four men “were claiming to have legal residency of her vacant property and had changed the lock,” Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said in a statement to NBC News. He noted that Shanetta was visiting the home to make some renovations.
The woman later called authorities, who, when arrived on the scene, requested proof of identification from the four suspects. They claimed to be Sovereign citizens from the Al Moroccan Empire and that their status permitted them access to the property,” O’Hara explained.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “sovereign citizens believe that they – not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials – get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. In addition, they don’t think they should have to pay taxes.”
After police confirmed that Shanetta was, in fact, the homeowner, they then informed the individuals that they could not be on the property. They left, but around 2:40 p.m., one man, later identified as 39-year-old Hubert John of Los Angeles, returned before the homeowner’s locksmith could change the lock. John allegedly used a key and entered the home, and placed a Moorish flag, representative of the sovereign citizens, in the window.
O’Hara stated that a Newark police SWAT team was eventually “deployed because the suspect refused to leave and claimed that he was rightfully in possession of the home. The suspect was essentially a squatter in a vacant home who had the locks changed. No weapons were used in this incident.”
Shanetta, who said she was receiving threats from the group prior to the incident, retold the story on the popular social media platform TikTok, warning others of her “bizarre” encounter.
“I was randomly but not randomly targeted by a terrorist group that doesn’t follow any of our rules and would be violent in efforts to steal my house,” she explained in a series of videos. “It’s not the sexy crime Lifetime show that we’re used to seeing. … This was something for me to try to communicate a cautionary tale that is bizarre and crazy, but it’s real life. It happened.”
John was arrested but has since been released. He faces charges of criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, and terroristic threats.