A couple that tried to claim rights to a multimillion-dollar D.C. mansion that they didn't own is at it again.
Antonio Caldwell and Mia Waddell were arrested Wednesday night for moving into a vacant row house on Lanier Place NW in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood, police said. Caldwell, who also goes by Antonio Bey, and Waddell claim to be Moorish nationalists and said they have sovereign rights to the property, police said.
Neighbors told News4 they saw a U-Haul truck and someone taking furniture inside the house, which had been empty and under construction for some time.
The couple put a sign in the window claiming the house now belongs to them and they changed the locks, so police had to break in to get the couple out of the home.
"We have something in this country called private property and they're on somebody's private property and I don't think they had a right to be there," a neighbor who did not want to be identified said.
Earlier in the month, the couple tried to claim rights to a mansion up for sale near Rock Creek Park.
No one lives in the house, but the couple that owns the home lives nearby, and when the wife received an alert about the alarm going off, she rushed over expecting to find a real estate agent. Instead, she found a man and woman who claimed they owned the land because their ancestors were the original inhabitants.
The man and woman can be heard repeatedly saying on security video they were Moorish nationalists who had a sovereign right to the home. Surveillance video shows the man and woman breaking into the home, then taking down the for sale sign before the homeowner responded to the alarm.
Once police arrived, the couple continued insisting the land was theirs. After more than 30 minutes, the couple became more argumentative with police, beginning to yell.
Finally, the man appeared to try to push past police, who then arrested the couple. They remained defiant as they were escorted out by police.
The suspects were both charged with misdemeanor unlawful entry and released pending a court date and were ordered to stay away from the home. They failed to appear for the court date.
After the latest incident, a judge ordered them held in jail. They again are charged with unlawful entry but they also face failure to appear in court charges.
The owner of the home near Rock Creek Park said prosecutors are planning to add more serious charges when the couple appears before a judge next week.
A similar incident took place in 2013 when Lamont Butler moved into a vacant mansion in Bethesda, Maryland. He said his religious beliefs as a member of the Moorish Nation entitled him to the home. The police disagreed.
Moorish American Nationals believe black Americans are descendants of an ancient Moroccan empire. Most members are law-abiding citizens, but a splinter group believes their ancestors were here before the U.S. government so many federal and local laws don’t apply to them.
"Today, some people are under the misconception and erroneous notion that the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. is a place where one can learn how to forgo their civic duty of paying taxes, obtain their 'straw-man,' and assert their so-called sovereignty, etc," the Moorish Science Temple of America said in a statement in July 2015. "We assertively declare that the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc. is in no form or fashion a Sovereign Citizen Movement or a Tax Protestor Movement, consequently our teachings are diametrically opposed to that ideology."
Caldwell and Waddell are not affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple of America, which is a legitmate religion with temples across the country.