Drug raid in The Villages retirement community nets evidence of golf cart 'chop shop'

Five people are being held in a Florida jail on drug-related charges in connection with a SWAT-team raid in The Villages retirement community that turned up evidence of a possible "chop shop" operation for stolen golf cars.

Among those arrested was Kathleen Unrath, 43, niece of the ailing homeowner, who was not believed to be involved in any illegal activity.

Unrath, who lived in the house, said she was going to take care of her uncle but instead was allegedly running the illegal drug and chop shop businesses behind his back, deputies told WFTV.


Golf carts, many souped-up, are a popular mode of transportation around the retirement community that is dotted with golf courses and has more than 150,000 residents south of Ocala, Fla.

Unrath and Michael Witkowski, 63, were held on misdemeanor drugs charges.

Three others, Kenneth Ray Padgett, 53, Charlotte Gajewsky, 45, and William Anthony Romska, 38, faced felony drug-related charges, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell. 

The five were being held in Sumter County jail awaiting hearings in early July.

The deputies involved in the raid last week had obtained a search warrant after a confidential informant reported three alleged drug buys at the home, The Villages-News, an online news outlet inside the community, reported.

The deputies found windshields, seat cushions, wheels and tires, along with other golf cart parts, in the garage and attic of the home, WKMG-TV reported. 

Chief Deputy Gary Brannen, who was on hand for the arrests, said golf cart parts had been discovered in the home. He indicated the home may have been used as a “chop shop,” The Villages-News reported.

Despite turning up golf cart parts, deputies said they had not been able to connect the evidence to recent golf cart thefts in the area, WKMG reported.

The raid followed recent complaints at a community development supervisors meeting in which neighbors cited unkempt property at the home.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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