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CRIME Man accused of stealing house



Published: Tue, February 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Richmond Heights man has been charged with grand theft.

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) -- Police accuse a man of stealing a house, after another man returned to his parents' home following his widowed mother's funeral and found someone living there.

Jon Thomas, 54, said the house in this Cleveland suburb was shuttered when his parents moved to an assisted living center in 2000.

Now living in New York City, he returned two days before Christmas 2003 and saw lights shining inside, cars parked in the back and an elaborate Christmas display on the lawn.

"I was dumbfounded," he said.

Rather than confront the occupants, the Thomases went to police.

"We've never had a case like this here before," said police Chief Walter Ugrinic.

Arrest

After a year of tracing property transactions and rental agreements, police arrested Richard Lenard, 26, of nearby Richmond Heights, on a charge of grand theft.

Police accuse Lenard of stealing the house, which Thomas says is worth $300,000, and its contents. Thomas says Lenard allegedly sold $180,000 worth of furnishings in two 2003 estate sales.

Thomas has sued Lenard for compensation. He also has asked a probate court to return ownership of the home to him.

The four-bedroom house is currently in the name of Tara Vaden Williams, who bought the house from Lenard in May 2004, for $50,000, according to county records.




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