Three alleged squatters arrested |

Three alleged squatters arrested

Benjamin Ornelas
Nevada County Sheriff Department |

Two men and a teen were arrested after allegedly squatting in a residence off North Bloomfield Road above Nevada City, and attempting to claim ownership under an affidavit of adverse possession.

A property inspector had gone to the bank-owned residence in the 18000 block of Douglas Road Thursday afternoon, but found the house was not vacant, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Pettitt.

The men inside the house told him to get out, which he did, not wanting to get into a confrontation, Pettitt said.

Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the residence and tried to contact the men inside.

They could hear a barking dog, but no one came to the door, Pettitt said. After approximately 20 minutes of knocking, a man identified as Benjamin Lewis Ornelas, 50, came to the door but reportedly refused to come outside.

Ornelas reportedly told deputies he had paper to prove he was a legal resident, and slid an affidavit of adverse possession under the door.

It was unclear how Ornelas gained access to the residence, but he said it belonged to him and quoted “sovereign authority,” Pettitt said.

Adverse possession is a legal action taken to claim title to abandoned property.

If someone occupies land they don’t own without the owner’s permission, the true owner must take action to eject the trespasser within a certain period of time (as prescribed by the applicable state statute of limitations). If the true owner doesn’t act in time, the adverse possessor can acquire title to the land and become the legal owner.

In order to assert a claim of adverse possession in California, the person seeking to gain title to the property must demonstrate possession under a claim of right or color of title; actual, open, notorious occupation; adverse and hostile possession; continuous possession for a period of five years; and payment of all taxes assessed against the property during the five-year period.

Despite being told that the bank owned the residence, Ornelas continued to refuse to leave the residence, Pettitt said. Deputies eventually forced entry into the house and took Ornelas, a 17-year-old boy, and Conan Michael Robertson, 19, into custody.

A search of the residence reportedly uncovered numerous boxes of ammunition and a Colt handgun.

The teen and Robertson were charged with second-degree burglary and resisting arrest. Robertson remains in custody in county jail in lieu of $50,750 bail, while the teen was booked into juvenile hall.

Ornelas was found to be on post-release community supervision out of Yuba County, Pettitt said.

He was arrested on suspicion of second-degree burglary, resisting arrest, being an ex-felon with a firearm, committing a felony while armed, and theft of utility services. He was being held in county jail in lieu of $600,000 bail.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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