The so-called "Freeman-on-the-Land" who's made an Alberta pensioner's life a living hell apparently has a warrant for his arrest in Quebec.
The Canadian Press, which broke the bizarre story of Andreas Pirelli a few days ago, reports the former Montreal resident skipped out on a 2010 assault trial. An arrest warrant was issued when he stopped showing up for court.
Pirelli, who CP said also goes by the name Mario Antonacci, began renting a half-duplex from retiree Rebekah Caverhill in 2011. She gave him a break on the rent in return for doing some work on the home.
But when she came by to check on things, Caverhill says she found the kitchen and bathroom gutted and Pirelli declared the place was no longer hers. He was a Freeman-on-the-Land, he said, and the house was now an "embassy." Caverhill says Pirelli changed the locks to keep her from entering her property.
Freemen believe the laws and rules of a society don't apply to them unless they specifically consent. The philosophy, which originated in the United States, has been used to avoid paying taxes and refusal to obtain driver's licences or firearms permits.
Freeman, whom the FBI consider a terror threat because of its ties to gun-toting anti-government militias, wrap their thinly reasoned world view about being "sovereign citizens" in pseudo-legal jargon underpinned by notarized documents and legal filings that are largely seen as frivolous.
Organizations representing lawyers and notaries in B.C. have warned their members against dealing with Freemen.
Caverhill got the Freeman treatment when Pirelli invoiced her for $26,000 worth of work on her duplex, then put a $17,000 lien on the place, which was to provide rental income to supplement her pension, CP reported.
Caverhill expressed frustration that no one would help her deal with Pirelli. Calgary police initially told her it was landlord-tenant dispute, a civil matter, while municipal officials kicked the problem upstairs to the provincial government.
But after her story was widely reported, Manmeet Bhullar, Alberta's minister responsible for landlord-tenant issues, intervened to help Caverhill eject Pirelli from her property, QMI Agency's Lorne Gunter said in a commentary.
“If a tenant changes locks without consent of the landlord, that’s an offense under the residential tenancies act and that’s something we can prosecute,” Bhullar told the Calgary Sun.
Police also said they would consult with the Crown to see whether Pirelli could face any charges.
“We’ve been providing her guidance as to what actions to take regarding the civil portion of her matter,” Insp. Julien Gagne told CP. “We’re also consulting with the Crown prosecutors office to determine if there’s anything criminal stemming from the overarching interactions and involvement with our alleged offender.”
However, Gagne warned it's unlikely charges would be laid.
That was before news that Pirelli was a wanted man in Quebec.
Pirelli and a co-accused face several charges there, including aggravated assault stemming from a 2007 incident where it's alleged a landlady was thrown down a flight of stairs, breaking several bones, CP reported.
The man in that case also claimed the landlady's residence was an embassy of the sovereign citizen movement, CP said.
But it's not clear if the arrest warrant was Canada-wide, which would result in automatic arrest and return to Quebec. Otherwise, it would be up to Quebec authorities to decide whether they wanted Pirelli back.
Meanwhile, Caverhill has managed to obtain an eviction notice against Pirelli, despite intervention from a Freeman supporter.
CP reported Court of Queen's Bench Master Judith Hanebury ordered Pirelli to vacate Caverhill's duplex by 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Pirelli, apparently holed up at his "embassy," was represented by another man who wouldn't give his name in court, so Hanebury refused to hear his argument. He was there, he said, because Pirelli was in danger.
"He is in lockdown," the man said. "This has been turned into an international incident. There have been several thousand death threats."
In his commentary, Gunter condemned the hypocrisy of Freemen who claim not to recognize the power of the state, yet hide behind legal protections when challenged.
He also criticized police for being timid in their response.
"They have told her her complaint is a civil matter, not a criminal one, so they cannot help," he wrote. "That’s not true. Police help in civil actions all the time."
The province and police have finally stepped up, said Gunter.
"But it shouldn’t have taken national publicity of her case to help politicians and police find the necessary backbone."