The Villages

Golden Years? Police find meth, weed, and ‘golf cart chop shop’ in upscale retirement home

Police say a home in a prominent Florida retirement community was being used to purchase drugs and as a “golf cart chop shop.”

The Village News reports that deputies from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant early Wednesday morning at a home in The Villages, a large retirement community with 157,000 residents spanning 32 square miles in central Florida, about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. 

A SWAT team made the raid after a confidential informant helped set up three drug buys at the residence. Police found drugs and paraphernalia “in plain sight.” Chief Deputy Gary Brannen told the Village News that golf cart parts were also discovered, and that the home may have been used as a golf cart “chop shop.”

CBS affiliate WKMG reported that windshields, seat cushions, wheels and tires were found in the garage and attic of the home. Police also seized less than 1 gram of methamphetamine and less than 20 grams of marijuana.  Authorities stated that were unable to connect the evidence to recent golf cart thefts in the area, although one item in the home was reported stolen in Georgia.

Golf carts are the main mode of transportation around the massive area that bills itself as “Florida’s Friendliest Active Adult Retirement Community.”

 A 2013 Slate article noted that residents of the Villages were spending tens of thousands of dollars on souped-up versions engineered to resemble luxury automobile brands and hot rods. The community holds the record for the “largest parade of golf carts” in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Five people were arrested during the raid on Wednesday:  Kenneth Ray Padgett, 53; Charlotte L. Gajewsky, 45; William Anthony Wade Romska, 38; Kathleen Unrath, 43; and Michael Edward Witkowski, 63.  As reported by WKMG, charges included possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell; keeping or maintaining a drug shop; possession of heroin; and possession of paraphernalia.

Neighbors had long complained about the dilapidated appearance of the property and had appeared at an early June community meeting to voice their frustration, according the Village News. 

The owner of the property was reported as Tom Dugan, an elderly man with health issues who is not believed to be involved in the illegal activity. Dugan is the uncle of Kathleen Unrath, who had moved into the home. Unrath has a long history of arrests dating back to 2007. 

Check back with Crime Online as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Google Maps/July 2015]