I believe I've shared this story before, but it's been a while. It's long, sorry, but it's quite a story.
DH and I bought our house in a quiet neighborhood several years ago. Soon after we moved in, we started hearing from the neighbors "gossip" about our next-door neighbor that turned out to be true. She'd had multiple husbands and had a rathered checkered career. Took us a while to meet her (well, we did move in at Thanksgiving...). Anyway, by springtime current husband was gone. She and her grown kids moved out a lot of stuff, including a hot tub out of the back deck (that was interesting, there's about 6 feet between the sides of our houses).
So she left, and then "friends" of hers moved in -- she allowed them, but she was in foreclosure and was drawing it out as long as possible (this was long before the housing crisis). The friends were a group of young people, not too difficult to live next to, although we could periodically smell recreational substances coming from the back deck, and the guy started his van at 5:30 am every morning by hammering under it for about 20 minutes while cursing loudly. They had a dog who frequently got loose and got the cops called on them because of the leash law. After almost a year, the bank finally got the house back in foreclosure, then it went up for auction for back taxes and a man down the street bought it to "flip".
The new owner fixed it up very nicely and sold it to Sean and Erica. Then the fun started. They brushed me and DH off when we went to introduce ourselves the weekend they moved in, but we chalked it up to busyness. We did get to a point where we spoke regularly when we saw each other outside. When they had a maple tree taken down in their front yard, they gave us the firewood for our fireplace. It was hard to keep up with exactly who was living there at times; Sean was the main owner and occupant, sometimes Erica was there, then she would be gone for a while and another woman would be living there, then Erica would reappear. Erica had a middle school aged son and an infant when they moved in, and the kids disappeared and reappeared sporadically too. Sean and Erica did have a dog that they took good care of, and we had no problems with him.
Things went along quietly for a couple of years. Then one summer I started having trouble sleeping at night, and was often up after midnight. I started noticing lots of traffic coming to Sean's house. People would get out of the car, go to the front door and knock, then leave very quickly -- usually about a minute, no more than 90 seconds later. As I noticed this pattern, I mentioned to DH that I thought Sean and Erica might be dealing drugs -- it fit the pattern.
DH was unhappy that this was going on in our neighborhood. Unknown to me, he decided to do something about it. He called our local police to talk to them about it. They said they'd look into it. He also identified some of the cars that were regulars and started taking photos of them and their drivers from our son's bedroom window. However, we didn't own a digital camera, but instead an ancient 35 mm. It clicked loudly when the photo was taken, and DH wasn't very careful. Sean and his friends realized what was going on. While I was away at a conference, DH was intimidated by a couple of Sean's friends. He didn't want to back down, but I made him promise to cool it. Our older son was getting married in about a month, and I didn't want any difficulties while we had a house full of out-of-state relatives. So DH agreed to cool it.
We got through the wedding with no problems. Then a couple of weeks later, Sean stuck a note in our mailbox saying that he was sorry he hadn't been putting his trash out at the curb, that he was having a dispute with the trash collection company contracted by our town, and that he would get the trash taken care of soon. We didn't realize there was a problem -- turns out he had been storing trash on the other side of his house, and the other neighbors were complaining.
Then one Friday evening, Sean stuck a note in our front door saying that he and his family were going out of town, and that all the issues such as trash would be dealt with as soon as they got home on Sunday. Sean, Erica and some of their friends hopped in their cars and left. All was quiet until Saturday night. About 8 pm, a couple of police cars showed up in front of their house, and officers knocked on the door. DH went out to tell them Sean & crew had left town the night before. Police thanked DH, then asked him to go back inside. We watched as three more police cars showed up and officers stood around in the yard, until about 9 pm. Then things got busy. An officer with a search warrant showed up (all our windows were open, so we could hear most of their conversation). The police went in and started searching the house. The county's mobile crime lab truck showed up a while later.
As the search went on, we'd hear the police calling to each other, "Hey, I found something in this bedroom" or "Come check out what's in here" (remember, the houses are just a few feet apart). Then, around 11 pm, all work stopped because they found a floor safe in the upstairs bedroom closest to our house. They called in heavy equipment. It was after midnight when a hydraulic jackhammer showed up on a trailer. They jackhammered the safe out of the floor. It took them about 45 minutes of continual work to get it out. Nice way to spend a late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, listening to a jackhammer about 15 feet away from your bedroom window. After the safe was out of the floor and opened, the police started calling to each other, "Hey I found some 100s with traces of cocaine on them" and similar statements. We also heard them say they had torn open a 50-lb bag of dog food and run water in the bathtub for the dog that Sean and Erica had left in the house for the weekend.
Finally, the search wrapped up about 2 am. The next day, the police were back, looking for Sean and Erica.
They were staked out down the street, but they asked us to let them know if we saw anyone. All was quiet until after dinner. I had to run to the store. When I got there, I thought I saw Sean's car in the lot, but I wasn't positive. In the store, I thought I saw him and Erica, but they were quickly leaving. I finished my shopping and headed home. About a block from the house, I saw Erica running down the sidewalk with the dog. She jumped in Sean's car and they took off. Unfortunately, the police weren't around at the moment.
But the saddest part of the entire mess happened about an hour later. Erica's middle school aged son came home from spending the weekend with a friend. The friend's mother dropped him off and made tracks out of there, not even waiting until he got to the door. Son went to the front door, tried to get in, rang the bell, pounded on the door, went around to the back door and tried to get in there. He was locked out and no one was home. DH and I had immediately called the police number when we saw him arrive, and the police showed up. After talking with him, they called Erica's mother, who lived in the area, to come take him home with her. The idea that Erica would risk arrest to grab the dog and leave her son to fend for himself still boggles my mind.
That was the last we saw of Sean and Erica. We still weren't positive that he was wanted for drug dealing, but we strongly suspected it -- until the following weekend, when the local media broadcast that police were looking for Sean, who had been running a counterfeiting ring out of his home. He and his crew had been passing 5s, 10s and 20s in the area. That explained the "problems" with the trash collection.
Sean and Erica and their friends had left a few cars in the driveway and at the curb. Over the next few weeks, they were all repossessed. A couple of months after the search, the police brought a trash-hauling company in clean out the house. We finally heard that Sean had been arrested in another state about three months after the search.
Forgot to mention, when Sean first moved in, he was a chef at a local restaurant. Coincidentally, my older son, the one who got married during all of these events, is in food service and got a job at the restaurant where Sean had worked. DH & I asked him to find out what they knew about Sean. When our son asked, his boss immediately said, "You know Sean! How do you know Sean?" Once our son convinced him that we were just neighbors, they told him Sean had regularly stolen money from the restaurant, and was fired. That's when his counterfeiting operation went into high gear.
Periodically we'd get phone calls from various "law offices" asking if we knew where Sean was ; most likely debt collectors. We heard a rumor that he'd been convicted and went to prison; we believe it was his second offense due to some internet searching we'd done. Amazingly, we discovered recently that yes, he had gone to prison, and while he was in there, he set up his next counterfeiting operation for when he got out. Astonishingly, he served less than 4 years, then he and a prison buddy came back to this area, though not to this neighborhood thankfully, and started counterfeiting $100 bills that were supposed to fool counterfeit detecting pens. The prison buddy turned informant for the police, and Sean was busted again. I hope he's in for a good long time now.
The house was foreclosed on and flipped again, and an older couple bought it for their daughter and son-in-law. They've been here a couple of years, and are a true delight with a couple of young children. We are friendly with them, and extremely thankful we finally have good, normal neighbors. They did find $100 bills stuffed in the electrical outlets when they were preparing the nursery for their second child...they were counterfeit.
Thanks for reading this novella.