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Squatters won't leave South Tampa neighborhood even after bank buys back home

Former owner is disbarred attorney
Posted at 7:16 PM, Apr 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-10 02:50:49-04

TAMPA — He lost his house, but refuses to leave. It’s a ten-year battle neighbors want to see end. Officers have not been able to throw him out yet.

Neighbors want squatters out of their posh South Tampa neighborhood.

But they say the bank, which now owns the home, is not doing enough.

It's not the first time the house and its former owner have been in the center of a controversy.

“He has handfuls of people in here at a time. Are they living here? Who knows what they're doing?” said Joezette Hite,

She and her family tried to rent James Clark’s South Tampa home in 2016, paying a hefty deposit and rent.

But they were not able to.

“When we pulled up with the movers, he barricaded himself inside the home,” said Hite, who had to put her possessions in storage and live in a hotel, while they looked for another home.

The Hites eventually filed a lawsuit and received a judgment, but doubt they’ll ever be able to collect it.

Clark still won’t leave the home, even though the bank took back the house last week in a foreclosure auction.

Clark isn't living alone.

One roommate filed bankruptcy last week trying to stall the sale, but the court didn't grant it.

Others, including small children, are staying there. Clark hasn't paid his mortgage in more than a decade.

“He was once an attorney, a bankruptcy foreclosure attorney. He knows how to work the system and he's working it to his advantage at this point,” said Hite.

He's no longer an attorney, because he surrendered his law license last year after the Florida Bar discovered he spent nearly $1 million of his client's money in places like casinos, gun stores and fancy restaurants.

Records show that in the past two years, cops have been called to the house 25 times.

The calls included suspected drug use, disturbances and illegal parking.

“I'm just surprised nothing's been done about it quite yet.  It's crazy,” said Jason Mason, who frequently house sits for Clark’s neighbor.

He says he has witnessed police activity at the home.

“It’s definitely concerning to know that's a regular occurrence,” said his wife Victoria Mason.

“The bank needs to come in. They need to put a lock on this door and get these people out of this home,” Hite said.

The bank that bought the house at auction is a trustee for the bank that held the original loan.

We let them know about neighbors' complaints, but we haven't heard what they plan to do. 

Clark and his tenants were informed last week that the sale was finalized and they were told to vacate.

Records show that police were at the house as recently as Sunday night, but officers say it’s up to the new owner to file a complaint in order to pursue trespassing or other criminal charges.

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