CALGARY – A so-called sovereign citizen who is said to have claimed a Calgary rental property as his “embassy” has been removed from the home after a two-year battle with the senior who owned the place.
Calgary police swooped in in the wee-hours of Friday morning and arrested Andreas Pirelli, also known as Mario Antonacci, on several outstanding warrants issued by courts in Quebec.
Rebekah Caverhill said she rented the home to Pirelli in November 2011. She said he identified himself as a follower of the Freemen-on-the-Land movement, claimed the property as an embassy, changed the locks and placed a lien on the home.
Caverhill cried tears of joy when she heard of the arrest Friday.
“I’m so grateful,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press from her home in Sylvan Lake, Alta.
“I don’t know what I’m walking into when I walk in there, but that’s nothing. Bricks and boards can be fixed, but there are some things that are far more precious than bricks and boards — that’s the idea of freedom and standing up for what you think is right.”
Pirelli had been facing an eviction notice, but the process hadn’t been expected to occur until Saturday morning. Police didn’t wait, making the arrest on the warrants a few hours after two officers visited the home Thursday evening.
It came off without a hitch, said Calgary police Insp. Darrell Hesse.
“It went relatively smoothly,” he said. “They were able to make contact with that individual and they took him into custody without incident.”
Hesse said Pirelli, 48, will remain in custody until he is transported back to Quebec.
He was accused of pushing a landlady down a flight of stairs in Montreal in 2007. Jocelyne Malouf alleges that he broke her pelvis, arm, wrist and ankle. Malouf said she was then picked up and thrown onto the street. An arrest warrant was issued in May 2010 when he failed to show up during his assault trial.
Malouf said she had allowed the man to house-sit rent-free for five months while its occupant was out of the country. She told The Canadian Press she had problems when she asked him to leave. She said he claimed the property as an embassy and told her he would keep it without paying.
Malouf wasn’t aware an arrest had been made in Alberta.
“They’re bringing him back? My God, that’s good news,” Malouf said from Montreal. “I feel pretty good about that. It’s pretty good news for many, many, many people.”
Malouf was angry she didn’t get the closure of a trial after spending two months in hospital.
She hopes authorities will keep Pirelli in jail this time.
“That would be the best situation,” she said. “I think they know what to do with that man.”
Caverhill is thrilled she was able to make a difference.
“I hope that the lady in Quebec who had the problem … I hope I’ve done something to help make her life easier.”
The Law Society of British Columbia and B.C. Notaries have issued warnings about Freemen and, in a bulletin last year, the society estimated the group could number as many as 30,000 in Canada.
RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are developing awareness materials for front-line officers and the movement is the subject of upcoming policing seminars in Vancouver and Toronto.
The FBI considers the movement a domestic terror threat in the United States, but a Freemen-on-the-Land spokesman told The Canadian Press earlier this month it does not advocate violence and it has no place in the movement.
Caverhill said she inexplicably woke up around the same time the arrest was made and was asked by her fiancee if she was having a nightmare.
“I said no, I’m not. It’s done,” she said.
“I said I feel such a calmness that I haven’t felt before, and it was like God said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m looking after you and it’s done.'”