AM special magistrate calls out scammers, dismisses rental complaint

Vacation rental managers need to be on the look out for party house scammers.

That’s the warning from Anna Maria special magistrate Karla Owens in her dismissal of a complaint July 24 against the owners and property management of a home at 403 Alamanda Road for allegedly exceeding vacation rental occupancy limits.

Owens said the owners and management company were the victims of a party house scam.

In March, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy issued an executive order to regulate vacation rentals to counter the spread of COVID-19. The order, since repealed, prohibited vacation bookings of less than 30 days and capped occupancy to the allowed overnight rental.

On May 15, patrol deputies in the city, where law enforcement is provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, encountered a large party at the property on Alamanda.

MCSO deputies had followed a motorist driving on the wrong side of the road to the property.

Deputies searched the vehicle and found multiple firearms, including an AK-47, as well as potential narcotics, and they arrested Gerard Anton Anderson Jr., Devontae Adrian Houston and Rodney Dunbar Jr., all of Palmetto, on firearm charges.

At the party, the MCSO found more firearms, as well as illegal drugs.

The MCSO’s investigation is ongoing, but the city responded with action against the property owners and management company for allowing more than the permitted number of people at the rental.

City attorney Becky Vose asked Owens to fine the owners, Heather and James DeVore, and their management company, Beach House Real Estate.

But Don Purvis, owner of Beach House Real Estate, asked Owens to dismiss the violation.

He said a renter booked the property for more than 30 days using a stolen credit card and then illegally subleased the property for $400 a night — without the owner’s or management’s knowledge or consent.

Purvis said his company has cooperated with the MCSO and had moved to evict the tenants after learning of the party.

“We’re not disputing that there were people there,” Purvis said. “But we never gave them permission and the owners didn’t either.”

Vose said, “We do understand they were hoodwinked, but they need to have procedures in place to prevent this from happening.”

Owens dismissed the violation, finding Beach House Real Estate acted in good faith and cooperated with the city.

“But if this is a pattern of behavior by criminals, I think all of you all need to tighten up your process,” she said.

“If this does happen again, I will probably not be so lenient,” she continued.