Police in Newark arrested a man who claimed to be a sovereign citizen of the Al Moroccan Empire — which has been labeled an extremist group — after a homeowner said he locked himself inside her home and declared it his ancestral property.
Hubert A. John, 39, of Los Angeles, was arrested by a SWAT team last Thursday after he entered into the home in the Upper Vailsburg section of Newark and placed a Moorish flag in the window, police said. He faces charges of criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass and terroristic threats, authorities said.
The incident was retold on TikTok by the homeowner, who police say purchased the home in February.
“This is a really bizarre, crazy situation,” said the woman on TikTok in a re-telling that spanned nearly 50 videos.
The homeowner did not respond to NJ Advance Media when reached on social media. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond when asked if John had an attorney representing him.
The woman said she purchased the home from a bank and was preparing to renovate it. She had not moved in yet and would check on the property in her free time as renovations got started.
She said she had received a letter dated May 20 in the mail from a group called Al Moroccan Empire Consulate at New Jersey State Republic telling her the home belonged to them. She also received a second letter in June from the same group with red fingerprints and seals on it, the woman said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website says the Al Moroccan Empire is part of a group of Moorish sovereign citizens, who espouse a doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society that grants them immunity from laws.
“Members of the Moorish sovereigns, called Moors, have come into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website reads. “Recently, Moorish sovereign citizens have engaged in violent confrontations with law enforcement.”
The woman’s attorney told her to ignore the letters she received and brushed it off as a scam, she said in the videos.
The woman said on TikTok that she noticed her front door lock had been changed and a side door lock had been sawed off on Wednesday, when she attempted to let the gas company in. She called Newark police that day and they eventually arrived and checked the property, but they didn’t find anyone, she said.
The police left and she arranged for a locksmith to arrive the following day, she said in the video.
When she met up with the locksmith at her home last Thursday, two men drove up to the house claiming they had papers showing they were the owners, the homeowner recalled in the videos. The woman called the police again and the men told her they were leaving to get their “papers” showing the property belonged to them, she said.
Four men arrived back at the house around the same time police arrived, the woman said. One of the men was wearing a black hat with a tassel and another was wearing a red beret, she said.
The police said they told the four men to leave after they verified the woman had purchased the home.
“At approximately 2:40 p.m., one of the suspects, Hubert A. John, returned before the homeowner’s locksmith could change the locks,” police said. “John used a key and entered the home before placing a Moorish flag in the window.”
The woman said the man rushed into the home while she was still keeping an eye on the property and locked her out. When she saw him walking back up to the property, she yelled “Get off my property!” she said.
“He’s a tall guy with long legs,” she said. “In the time that it took me to finish saying ‘property,’ he stepped over me like I wasn’t even there. He took like all three steps up to the door in one step, shoved his key into the lock, opened the door,” she said.
The woman said on TikTok that she overheard police contemplating whether they should handle the incident as a squatter situation, which would mean she would have to go through the courts to get him evicted. Police later decided to call in a SWAT team, broke down the door and carried John out, she said.
Police said no weapons were used by John.
It was not immediately clear if John had a first court appearance and whether he was still in jail. Records from the jail said his projected release date was June 21.
The woman said on TikTok he was released, but the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond when asked if he was still detained.
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