The Real Squatters of OC

Can you really just show up at a multimillion-dollar Newport Coast home and move in without buying it or paying rent? Apparently, yes

*Read R. Scott Moxley's update to this story here.*

It takes Christopher Wayne Duncan seven minutes to answer the doorbell, walking out onto the second-floor balcony of the Mediterranean-style home at 10 Hidden Pass in Newport Coast. He looks disheveled this Sunday morning, as though he hasn’t slept for days; his wife, Robin Ann Duncan, similarly tired-looking, also emerges.

I’ve heard the pair has a tendency to greet visitors while holding a camcorder and barking angry statements about trespassers. But Christopher is merely curious; he asks me what I want. I identify myself and tell them I’ve heard that they are having a hard time.

Alana McCarthy
Michael Byers

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Chris and Robin Duncan arrested. Read R. Scott Moxley's update to this story here.

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Robin bursts into tears and declares, “They won’t let us leave!”

Christopher adds, “It’s crazy. We have been trapped now for five days. We don’t have any food. This is nuts. I’d love to talk to you, but can you come back in 30 minutes, after we shower?”

I ask them if I could bring them back food. A misty-eyed Robin says, “Yes.” I’m expecting a burger-and-fries order when she says, “We need cat food. They like Fancy Feast brand, turkey and chicken flavor.”

When I return, Christopher opens the door and lets me in. I hand him a bag with 10 cans of cat food. He shows me his large refrigerator—empty except for a carton of milk. I ask him if he is sure he doesn’t need any food. He says he is okay because a neighbor gave him “a bunch of hot dogs” and he’s been eating “lots of Cap’n Crunch.”

“We also have some lunch meat,” adds Robin, “but nothing for dinners.”

They open a can of cat food and place it on a bowl. The jumbo-sized cat (they have two) isn’t interested.

Except for an old television on a cheap, fake-wood TV stand, two opened DVD boxes of 24 episodes scattered nearby on the floor, an L-shaped orange sofa, a coffee table and an occupied, three-story, carpeted cat house next to French doors that open to a Pacific Ocean view, the Newport Coast home, worth $2.6 million when it was built five years ago, is oddly empty. The kitchen has no table. There are no plants, paintings, rugs, bookshelves, floor lamps, chairs, desks or knickknacks that normally indicate a house is occupied.

Placed at the center of the den’s fireplace mantel is one item that does give a personal touch: a decade-old, framed 3-by-5-inch photograph of a married couple. In it, Christopher and Robin Duncan look young and confident. Their beautiful faces could have put them in fashion magazines. Indeed, the people in the picture look like they belong in this impressive house, with its high-end, ornate detail that Orange County’s richest man, billionaire real-estate developer Don Bren, mandates in his internationally renowned residential projects such as Pacific Ridge.

But time has not been kind to Christopher, whose hand visibly shakes when he brings a small glass of water to his lips at the outset of our late-October interview. A shoulder-blade-length ponytail has replaced his stylish haircut. His once-handsome face has severely shrunken. His skin is blotchy. He twitches periodically, and he absent-mindedly repeats already-asked small-talk questions.

He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would own, or even rent, a multimillion-dollar home in one of Orange County’s most exclusive neighborhoods. He does, however, look like the kind of guy who might pull a moving truck up to a vacant home in one of Orange County’s most exclusive neighborhoods, move in uninvited, change the locks and declare himself a permanent resident.

Which is exactly what he and Robin did on Sept. 19, much to the chagrin of the house’s actual owner. And the neighbors. And the president of the homeowners’ association, who keeps coming by the property in the company of the Newport Beach police, asking the Duncans when they’re going to get the hell out.

Christopher isn’t big on specifics, but he does suggest a headline for his and Robin’s tale: “Prisoners In Their Own Home: A Newport Coast Story.”

But, I ask him, how exactly did they even come to consider someone else’s three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath pad their “own home”? He stares at me. Then he gives a toothless smile, shakes his head and says, “I’m not allowed to talk about that . . . but we are not squatters.”

*     *     *

The term “squatting” means to find a seemingly abandoned piece of property—land, a commercial structure or a home—and move in without the knowledge or permission of the owner. You would think taking over property that doesn’t belong to you and occupying it without paying compensation would be flat-out illegal. The first crimes that come to mind (after trespassing) might be burglary or fraud.

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32 comments
D B Walsh
D B Walsh

Not so unusual a story but well done indeed. We had at least one squatter living for several years in a two bedroom condo in Tustin with two German shepherd dogs the size of miniature ponies who merrily shat up the patio (a common area by CC&Rs) Would the association do anything? Nada! Mind you, we are not allowed to keep dogs over 15 lbs, a rule also gone the way of legit home ownership and still, no one did anything. The guy finally left on his own accord but I wonder if he has kindred spirits remaining here. Heck, my kids can barely afford their rent and I am thinking that if they travel light.....

Fat
Fat

Why do I feel like a sucker for paying my mortgage?

hal
hal

use the laws for innkeepers they would be out in a flash as, "guests". ...but these residence laws are bogus- you are dealing with organized crime here.

123
123

Emily, this means they could live in your house, too.You Calif people need to get this law fixed.Has anyone even filed for eviction? (when they show up for court, tell the gate keeper to lack them out!)

Joe
Joe

What a bunch of scum bags!

NCNeighbor
NCNeighbor

In response to CC's comment below, the problem may not be a lack of effort on the part of the DA or NBPD to evict these deadbeats, it may be that the owners do not want to get involved with in a legal battle. If the owners are guilty of rent skimming, then the last thing they want is for the DA or police to get involved. That may be why the squatters targetted this house.

CC
CC

I am shocked that the DA and the NB Police are sitting by and not doing anything about this. It doesn't take 2 months to prove the lease is invalid and that these criminals are scamming the system. What is sad is that the bank will likely pay for them to go away instead. Shame on the authorities for not moving quicker to eradicate these crooks from our beautiful community.

Demoman3955
Demoman3955

If it were my property, i wouldbe livingit it.but if this were my place and this had happened, i would have them out of the house, and they wouldnt ever do that again, and i would plant roses in the back that would be well fertilized.

Tana
Tana

Read This

NCNeighbor
NCNeighbor

Unfortunately the owners of 10 Hidden Pass are just as bad as the squatters. The Property is currently in default according to public records. Based on the default amount, it looks like the owners have not been paying their mortgage for several years. If they have been collecting rent during this time, then they are guilty of rent skimming, a felony. The owners and the squatters both need to be locked up.

myming
myming

the way mr. duncan is described physically, i'd think he has an amphetamine problem.any persistant odor coming from the house ?

i live in costa mesa and there's nothing "gritty" about it...

now oc weekly has a spammer, "nghijhgjihjh". these folks spread like wildfire and soon your posting board will no longer belong to you...

Eric Stratton
Eric Stratton

Are the cats neutered? Call Animal Control, send a deputy to take them both downtown for processing & change the locks. Surely a lawyer could arrange this. Stoop to the occasion. Don't think of it as work. The whole point is just to enjoy yourself.

Darkness rules the Earth
Darkness rules the Earth

Ahahaha this is a great story. I feel for the property owner and I hope the DA kicks some tail. I imagine the out of state lessor creates a jurisdiction problem. I know where these 2 clowns can get 3 hots and a cot until they'll never try this again. Make an example of them, there are too many more coming to turn OC into a parking lot adjacent to a sewer.

OCNB949
OCNB949

This is so ridiculous. Sorry guys, but if I was the home owner, I would find a way in that house, or make it hell to live there until they left! Also, if the owner of the property did not sign the lease, or have an legal agent do it- then it's fraud, and those so called lease papers the Duncans have at not valid! HELLO! So there for it's breaking and entering! And if they know he is sneaking out late at night, wouldn't that be the time, you wouldn't let him back in????

And for the neighbor that lives next to them, Start playing your music very very loud at 6 am - Get two germen Sheppard dogs to roam your property at all times!

CC
CC

This story is unbelievable. It is sad to see something like this happening to an area like Newport Coast. It is even more sad to see anyone expressing bitter, negative sentiment. The individuals in the article are taking advantage of a loophole and making a mockery of our legal / police system. Rather than channel energy towards distaste of the wealthy, one should consider pressuring the authorities to make an example of this situation and do the right thing which is prosecuting their illegal behavior so they stop victimizing others.

Anna
Anna

This story is disturbing whether your rich or poor. If your hard working and have earned a home, car ..etc, someone can just take it all from you by abusing squatters rights. Why are these people allowed back on the property ? Why are people providing them with food? They should maybe go squat at a dental place rather than someone else's home....I had to laugh a little about this though, "Others call it the “California Riviera,” a place where you can see uniformed maids walking to bus stops for their slow voyages back to grittier neighborhoods in Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana." Some areas of Newport aren't as nice as Old Town Anaheim, Santa Ana & some of Costa Mesa, since when are these areas so "gritty"?

Dian
Dian

Emily, are you for real? there are many rich people who have worked very hard to achieve what they have acquired, without taking a cent from the government or from poor people. Some have sacrificed a lot of family time to put in unforgivable hours on their jobs. A lot have spared themselves the luxury of buying a lot of things people who can ill afford some of the things they purchased, to make sound investment choices. For those who have wronged poor people, two wrongs will never equate to one right.

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anthony
anthony

i cant believe the legal system is used for these types of crimes. the laws have to be changed and or fixed. the lawyer representing these loosers should be fined for representing a con-man. if it happened to me, i would have dragged that guy out of my house by brutal force .

Emily
Emily

Anything that screws the self-entitled rich jerks who have turned this country into an oligarchy is fine by me. Good on them. I hope they keep the place just to make the rest of the neighbors miserable because "those scummy poor people" did they same thing they do everyday and take advantage of a loophole in the law.

RobE
RobE

Squatters moving into multi-million dollar homes has been happening up in my neck of the woods, too:http://seattletimes.nwsource.c...

How is what these people are doing not at the very least trespassing and, at worst, breaking and entering?

Also, the attorney that is representing the squatters should be disbarred for making demonstrably false claims before a court of law (otherwise known as perjury).

Dian
Dian

I told my husband about the story after reading it in the OCweekly, and he said it is a made up story. Is this story for real, or just a well written story?.

Josh
Josh

I've read enough Crimethinc books to know that squatting is supposed to be fun. Why do it if you're basically trapped in your house and being miserable? Dumbasses.

Also, way to have pets you can't even feed yourself. Dumbasses.

Also, the drawing of Christopher Duncan looks almost identical to Lucky from King of the Hill.

HF Buick
HF Buick

seriously, if they are breaking the law, then no one will care when they quietly disconnect the camera, break into the house, and drag those filthy hippies out of a property that doesn't belong to them. in this world there are ALWAYS those people that have to work VERY hard for every little thing they own-- it's about time we took out greedy people like this that don't deserve anything for free.

jason
jason

And these White Trash think people are being RUDE and UNREASONABLE because they want to live in peace in somebody elses property? I would make them leave by FORCE if this was my property.

Great story by the way, written much better than that Brandon Ferguson guys' writing.

Ltpar
Ltpar

Scott, enjoyed the story. As a long time rental property owner in Orange County, I have had many kinds of tenants over the years, but never a situation like this. I can tell you without hesitation that had freeloaders invaded one of my properties, they would have been physically tossed out the door head first. They only get away with this crap because many property owners are mystified about the law and intimidated by sleaze bag lawyers who represent the trespassers. What ever happened to American property rights?

henrygattis
henrygattis

There is a real easy way to evict these guys legally and safely.

But, if the neighbor "fears for his safety" because of a couple of larcenists, it will NEVER HAPPEN.

Still I thin it's pretty funny!

CB
CB

scum

Aaron
Aaron

Another great story, Moxley. It's especially well researched and written. I just wish it didn't happen in my neighborhood.

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Editor Alert:I ask him if he is sure he doedn’t need any food.

Lori Grannis
Lori Grannis

A great story by Mr. Moxley. I also was taken by the story illustrations. Thank you for a great read today!

 
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