BIG PINE KEY, Fla. – A man vacationing in the Florida Keys was arrested Tuesday after he broke into a home whose owner was out of state and moved his family in, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
Matthew Prescott, 45, of Fort Pierce, faces charges of burglary, property damage and theft.
According to authorities, a deputy went to the three-story home at the end of Long Beach Road on Big Pine Key at 7 p.m. after a property manager informed authorities that several people broke into the home and appeared to be living inside.
Deputy Timothy Oggeri found Prescott, a woman, a child and three dogs inside, authorities said.
Deputies said all three people appeared to be unpacking belongings as if they were on vacation or moving in permanently.
Authorities said Prescott told the deputy he was preparing the buy the property and claimed he had permission to be on the property.
Deputies said his story changed several times and Prescott couldn't name the property owner nor provide the name of his attorney, whom he claimed also knew of the situation.
Authorities said Prescott eventually told Oggeri that he assumed the home was abandoned and he could take possession of the property by paying the property taxes.
Oggeri contacted the homeowner in Pennsylvania, where she primarily lives, who told him that the home is not for sale and she did not give anyone other than the property manager permission to be there.
The homeowner told Oggeri that the property is locked at all times and should have been unoccupied since Hurricane Irma. She added that she wished to press charges.
The property manager told Oggeri that the home was locked and secure when she checked on it Sunday.
She said the home's hurricane shutters were removed and the power had been turned back on since Prescott and his family moved in and she found that one of the dead bolt locks on a door had been removed.
The property manager told Oggeri it also appeared that some jewelry boxes had been tampered with.
Authorities said Prescott later admitted not knowing the owner and not having permission to be on the property.
Authorities said he told Oggeri he decided to take the woman and child to the Florida Keys for vacation and he originally intended to camp at whatever campsite they could find.
But Prescott said he later stumbled upon the property Monday while driving around and believed it was abandoned, authorities said.
Deputies said Prescott then drove to Key West, but all the campsites were too expensive, so he drove back to Long Beach Road and broke into the home.
Authorities said Prescott admitted to taking down the storm shutters and to removing the dead bolt. He also confessed to accessing the fuse box and turning on power to the home, deputies said.