Police arrest alleged mansion squatter

April 16, 2009 (SUGAR GROVE, Ill.) The alleged squatter is charged with two felonies.

And police are worried that as more homes are left vacant due to foreclosure, these kinds of problems will escalate.

Illinois has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the country.

The mansion taken over by the squatter is near west suburban Sugar Grove.

Sugar Grove police suspect this is happening more than anyone is aware but they say the suspect in this case was brazen.

The suspect took over a $700,000 home and moved furniture in, including a couple of big screen television. And he acted like he owned it.

It is a stately home in a beautiful subdivision in unincorporated Sugar Grove. The view from the back pomp is idyllic, overlooking a small lake. It stood vacant, however, according to neighbors, for nearly a year after a previous owner died and it went into foreclosure. About eight months ago, however, neighbors met 42-year-old Steven Hawthorne as he moved in.

"He introduced himself as my new neighbor and we talked a little bit and I proceeded to ask him when he had closed on the home. He said he hadn't closed yet," said Duane Suits, neighbor.

Hawthorne had no apparent plans to ever close and no legal right to move in. But with no mortgage company clamoring to evict him, authorities had no reason to get involved. Until they discovered he was allegedly using city utility, specifically water.

Police works department shut the water off and put a lock on the valve.

"He cut the lock off. We put another lock on, he cut that one off. We put a boot on for the lock, cut that one off and put his own on," said Detective John Sizer, Sugar Grove Police.

Hawthorne had also apparently illegally arranged to get free gas and electricity.

Finally, the county sheriff's department got the authority to evict him. Police charged him with theft of government property and criminal damage to state-supported property, both felonies. Neighbors say they grew suspicious as time went on and we saw the property not being maintained. There was concern that things might not be proper.

Police say Hawthorne's driver's license listed an address in Aurora. He is being held on Thursday night on $250,000 bond in the county jail.

You can read more about this story in Friday's Daily Herald.

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