The Squatters of Beverly Hills

After a fugitive doctor abandoned his mansion, an enterprising group of party throwers slid in the front door.

Morgan Gargiulo in the backyard of 1316 Beverly Grove Place in February. Photo: Michelle Groskopf
Morgan Gargiulo in the backyard of 1316 Beverly Grove Place in February. Photo: Michelle Groskopf
Morgan Gargiulo in the backyard of 1316 Beverly Grove Place in February. Photo: Michelle Groskopf

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The movie producer lives on a quiet cul-de-sac above Beverly Hills, close enough to the action to see office towers, far enough away to run into the occasional mountain lion. Beverly Grove Place winds into a canyon shaded by eucalyptus trees; the neighbors are entrepreneurs, hedge-fund investors, heiresses, studio executives, actors, and the actors’ agents. Their multimillion-dollar homes, like the producer’s, have high gates and plenty of cameras.

One such home, a four-bedroom, six-bathroom at the end of a long driveway, is even more hidden than most. It had been on the market, sitting empty for months, when, in October, the producer spotted a car in the driveway. He didn’t think anything of it until more started showing up almost nightly. They clogged the narrow road, blocking the producer’s Bentley. Then heavy bass began pumping from the backyard pool area every night, the beat ricocheting around the canyon. People would arrive — tumbling out of Ubers, teetering up from the base of the street. Early one morning, two young-looking women in spaghetti straps carrying sparkly little purses rang the producer’s doorbell. “I’m about to climb this ho,” one said, looking at the gate. She pushed her mouth onto his Ring camera to kiss the lens.

People who could afford to buy a house on the cul-de-sac didn’t throw parties like these. After a few weeks, the producer called the real-estate agent on the listing for the empty mansion, 1316 Beverly Grove Place. No one had bought the house, the agent said. Whoever had moved in did not belong there.

Who the fuck are these people, the producer wondered, squatting in the most exclusive Zip Code in America?

An overhead view of the mansion. Photo: New York Magazine

Beverly Grove place is not technically in Beverly Hills. It’s in an area called Beverly Hills Post Office, north of Sunset Boulevard between Coldwater Canyon and Benedict Canyon. Residents get “90210” on their mail, but their cops, water, and power come from the City of Los Angeles. Which meant that, for many years, the neighborhood served as a sort of class bridge for those with Beverly Hills aspirations but L.A. budgets. That has since changed — the area’s bigger acreage, better views, and relative privacy have recently drawn Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, who bought a $61 million Georgian-style compound last year, and LeBron James. The house at 1316, just down the road from where James is building his estate, is a leftover from the previous era. Built in 1999, it is a mere 5,875 square feet with a motor court and an opulent fountain. It was designed with a hodgepodge of vaguely Mediterranean architectural influences, all columns and archways like a Tuscan restaurant in Vegas.

When John A. Woodward IV got the listing in September, the mansion was priced at $4.995 million. It was unfurnished, so Woodward had to borrow old photos from the former broker, but other than that, it was in good condition. He hired a pool guy and a landscaper to keep the place looking nice for tours. There were the usual showings, some offers. Then, a few weeks before he heard from the producer, Woodward got a call from the pool guy. Someone had pulled up with a U-Haul, he said. He assumed there was a new owner and was hoping they might consider keeping him on. Woodward raced over to Beverly Grove to see what he was talking about. When he got there, he found his clicker no longer opened the gate. His keys didn’t work in the front door, either. Someone had even ripped up and discarded his FOR SALE sign. When he realized he was locked out, Woodward called the police. Two beat cops showed up and went inside; when they came back out, they said the people in the mansion were claiming they had a lease. It was a civil matter now, and there was nothing they could do.

The producer wasn’t the only neighbor who started noticing the new arrivals that October. Rick Rankin, a tech entrepreneur who lived one street over, realized something was amiss on one of his morning jogs. “There were people congregating,” Rankin says. “I wasn’t born yesterday. They’re jittery; their eyes are spinning. They were clearly on something.” By early November, some of the concerned formed a group chat called “Neighborhood Watch.” Among them: the producer, Rankin, and Rick and Fran Solomon. The Solomons had built their house — a glass-and-concrete Miami Vice–style seven-bedroom with a koi pond in the entryway — next to 1316 after buying a teardown on the reality show Million Dollar Listing. (According to Fran, her husband “was actually one of the first people to ever build a glass home in Beverly Hills.”) The couple, who live in Florida now, had just leased their house, which overlooks 1316, to a family with small children.

Before the crisis at 1316, Beverly Grove Place was friendly if not exactly tight-knit. Residents were often traveling or, like the Solomons, didn’t live there full time. But by mid-November, the text chat had become as active and impassioned as any condo board. Nearly every night, neighbors who could see into the backyard of 1316 sent videos of the packed parties happening there, colored rave lights blinking from the rooms. The cars kept arriving, a mix of beat-up sedans, Porsches, and G-Wagons. “Cut off their water,” one person suggested. “They’re possibly Mafia so wouldn’t want to try that,” another replied. “They are not Mafia,” someone else said. “Who said that? Cut the water.” One of the neighbors got in touch with LeBron James’s house manager. They were told James was very concerned.

What was happening next door confirmed something the Solomons, and many of the other neighbors, were already feeling about Los Angeles. “We chose to leave the state of California for many reasons. One of them was the crime rate,” Fran says. More than one neighbor mentioned the L.A. County district attorney, George Gascón, a progressive who had ridden in on the wave of reformers elected after the summer of 2020, who they believed was letting crime run rampant. Property damage and theft were up — smash and grabs in Beverly Hills, home invasions in Bel Air, carjackings in Santa Monica. The neighbors heard through the grapevine that someone from the DA’s office, apparently having heard about the situation at 1316, had said, “Squatters have rights.” This set the group chat aflame. “Welcome to California,” one wrote. “Thanks Liberals.”

On the afternoon of November 25, a typically sunny Saturday, the producer again found himself sitting in a traffic jam on his own picturesque street. The residents at 1316 seemed to be preparing for yet another blowout. Bartenders were unloading tables and booze from a van parked in the cul-de-sac. Two others held food and DJ equipment. Beefy security guards were posted at the gate. The neighbors still had no idea who was living in the house. The producer decided he’d had enough. After he was finally able to park his car, he delivered a tirade to the crowd, telling everybody they were partying with squatters. A woman interrupted — they were just the help, she said. Should she run in to grab the owner? Sure, the producer said, and called the police.

Two cops arrived, and as they waited with the producer, out came a 30-something man with slicked-back brown hair dressed like a kind of California swami in an unbuttoned shirt. “Hi, I’m your new neighbor, Morgan,” he said silkily with a European lilt. “What seems to be the problem?”

“You’re not my new neighbor. Go fuck yourself,” the producer responded. But the man was unflappably polite. He said that he had a lease and that he had rented the home for one year for $50,000, which made even the cops laugh, the producer recalls. (His response: “That’s less than my fucking utilities!”) The man went back inside and returned with a piece of paper, which had two boxes on it: one with his own name, Morgan Gargiulo, and another, labeled “landlord in possession,” with the name Giovanni Arcore. The paper had no address, no amount, no term of agreement, but it said “lessor” and “lessee.” Gargiulo also showed the police a Spectrum internet bill in his name registered to the house and his own driver’s license, which listed 1316 Beverly Grove Place as his official residence.

Nicholas Ucci in the living room with his dog, Duke. Photo: Michelle Groskopf

The neighbors had plenty of ideas about what was going on behind the doors of the house: orgies, mounds of coke, mafiosi. But they couldn’t have envisioned how quickly an entire ecosystem had managed to take hold in 1316 thanks to Gargiulo.

Half-Scottish and half-Italian, Gargiulo, 34, was raised in Lecce, a small city in Southern Italy. He claims his father owned stables in France and ran casinos in Montenegro. When he was 25, Gargiulo started an amateur nightclub in a private house with a pool, where the themes were pure Americana: “The Great Gatsby,” “Hip-Hop Burger Party,” and “Dinner With Elvis.” But he had bigger dreams than being a debonair nightlife impresario in his hometown, and less than three years later, he moved to L.A. to become an actor. He got parts in a few shorts under the name Morgan MacLean.

On Instagram, Gargiulo began posting pictures of his new American Dream life, all step-and-repeats, aviator sunglasses, cars, and James Dean poses. The reality was less glamorous and more typical of a Hollywood hopeful: The roles were small, as were the apartments, which he shared with roommates, and he still had to work in restaurants. In 2020, Gargiulo met a Swedish singer and violinist named Elin Wolf, a petite blonde in her 30s who had recently graduated from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Gargiulo was “silver-tongued,” Wolf says — incredibly charming. They formed a rock band. Soon after, she moved into his apartment in Burbank. Wolf says Gargiulo was constantly lying. Once, he told her he was taking her to Wine Country, then never showed up. She later found out he was at Coachella. Still, he was a “connector,” able to drop someone’s name to get them on a list or into some after-party. “Morgan always had an entourage, people he parties with. He would surround himself with people with money,” she says, “so he could get invited to things, make it seem like he was the orchestrator. He would say, ‘Oh, I bought this table.’ He was obsessed with this fantasy life.” He did the same, she says, with the boats he captained in Marina del Rey on day cruises despite not being licensed in the U.S. (His sailing excursions got mixed reviews. One person described their trip as “a bad/weird experience from the beginning” and mentioned that Gargiulo fell asleep.)

He could be violent, too. In August 2022, he and Wolf got into an argument at a club. According to Wolf, he dragged her outside, forced her into his car, and drove to the marina where she was living on a rented boat. He attempted to strangle her and tried to force himself on her before she escaped. Wolf ran to a neighbor, who called the police, and Gargiulo was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. (Gargiulo denies he attacked Wolf.) Photos show bruises under Wolf’s eyes where Gargiulo had allegedly dug his fingers into her skin. A week later, he took off for Burning Man.

Prosecutors had to chase Gargiulo for more than a year before he pleaded no contest to battering Wolf. As they were attempting to close the case, in September 2023, he took a tour of the mansion; it had just gone on the market. He claims he lucked into the house by way of Arcore — the mysterious Italian American from the “lease,” who called him after the tour and offered it to him for a steal. But phone calls and emails to the Gmail account listed on the lease never went through, nor is there even a Giovanni Arcore on record in California. I don’t know exactly how Gargiulo actually got into the mansion. Maybe someone with access really did let him in for cash. Or maybe he saw the empty home and realized that, with a little cunning, he could simply move in. “Who would not take an opportunity like that, I wonder?” Gargiulo asks when recounting the serendipitous event. In this telling, the price had dropped to only $35,000.

A morning after at the mansion. Photo: Michelle Groskopf

The mansion was a flex, but it also quickly became a profitable venture. Gargiulo invited one of his Burning Man friends, an Argentine American named Martino Vincent, 47, to move in; he took on the role of party promoter. Vincent calls himself a producer, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and software developer, though his real sources of income are opaque. In 2016, he tried to crowdfund the invention of a sneaker you could tie with a mobile app named for Nikola Tesla. The two met while Gargiulo was captaining day cruises. Vincent was doing something similar, chartering yachts for day-trippers as “Captain Burning Man.” (Vincent does not have a captain’s license either, but he says he always had other people captain his charters.)

The parties were five nights a week, the neighbors say. Invitations — beamed out to their network in the electronic-dance-music scene — described the location as a “secret Beverly Hills mansion.” The idea seemed to be to re-create Burning Man in Beverly Hills. They turned the downstairs living room into a club floor with rave lights, a Warhol-style print, and a disco ball. Eventually, they brought in some Moroccan-inspired poufs and rugs to evoke a lounge. At one end was a DJ setup where Gargiulo held court, performing his melodic house-music act. They billed some of the events as fundraisers for their camp at Burning Man. Others were “Shabbat dinners,” at which they supposedly collected donations for the victims of the Nova-festival massacre on October 7. And they charged heavily for admission. “It was the biggest mansion I had ever been to,” says a 22-year-old who went to one of the early parties. Security at the gate was charging $1,500 for a table upstairs, he says, and $500 downstairs. Buying a table came with bottle service. If you brought girls, you got in free. Vincent, who escorted the 22-year-old and his girlfriends to their table, told him he was the owner, which he believed until on a later visit he met Gargiulo, who said no, he was the owner. The parties were nearly as wild as the neighbors imagined. “I’ve never been to a party like that,” says the 22-year-old. “I’d get there at, like, 8 p.m. and wouldn’t leave until 4 p.m. the next day.” He saw “people sucking the air out of balloons.” (The housemates describe the admission charges as “suggested donations” and say they’re not responsible for what other people did at the house.)

Within a few weeks, they had added another layer to the operation: room rentals. Nicholas Ucci, 51, another EDM enthusiast and Burner, says Vincent brought him in to help run this side of the business and provide general house maintenance. Ucci moved in with his pit bull, Duke, and took on the role of enforcer, security guard, and handyman. He listed the “Beverly Hills Lodge” for $150 to $300 a night on “Boasting an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness centre, a garden and a shared lounge, Beverly Hills Lodge is situated in the Beverly Hills district of Los Angeles, only 8.2 km from Petersen Automotive Museum,” read the description. “Languages spoken at the 24-hour front desk include English, Spanish, Italian and Korean.” (There was also supposedly massage service.) Photos from the listing showed spare-looking rooms with crude wooden furniture, stock art, and bright overhead lighting. The reviews were poor. One guy named Gary said he arrived to discover all the rooms were already claimed.

Two of them were taken full time by Vincent’s girlfriend, Jane (not her real name), an interior decorator and lifestyle consultant, and his fiancée, Yung Kim, an entrepreneur and poet with an M.F.A. Jane says that she and Vincent co-own a boat and that they are founders of a few start-ups together, the latest being a lithium-mining company based in Argentina, though none have taken off yet. Kim says she and Vincent met a decade ago at a Google event and have been engaged ever since. The rest of the rooms were taken by — well, it depended. “Every time, I would see new people who were staying there,” says a former friend of Gargiulo’s who spent time at the house. “I mean, they were literally, like, housing the homeless. They would basically bring people in and say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be our maid. You can stay here as long as you clean the house for us.’ ”

Although the scene was more flophouse, the venue was a powerful backdrop against which the housemates could post proof of their upgraded lifestyle. Jane took a selfie in a gold bikini by the pool, captioning it with her name for the house, “Villa de Leone.” “Happy Thanksgiving 2023!!” Kim wrote next to a photo of her and Vincent, wineglasses in hand, hosting festivities in the kitchen. Because they were in a mansion, they were able to pass themselves off as genuine mansion people, which helped the parties to occasionally graze the C-list. Fabio Lanzoni, the chiseled romance-novel-cover heartthrob, picked up a guest one night and stopped for a selfie with Gargiulo. Before Christmas, the house was the location of a 007-themed holiday fundraiser for a charity called Create Impact, at which models walked the red carpet outside the garage in gowns and tuxedos and a belly dancer performed with a candelabra on her head. (Create Impact did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) In January, they held an Emmy Awards after-party attended by an actual Emmy winner, a drone operator who was honored for his work on Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium. Some of the housemates posed on Instagram clutching his statuette.

Photo: Michelle Groskopf

For a house to have a squatter, it has to have an owner. But the answer to the question “Who owns 1316 Beverly Grove Place?” is not so simple. In 2007, after living there for three years, the music executive Damon Dash sold the place for $3.6 million to a chiropractor from the Valley named Paul Turley. Although Turley was on the deed, the person who actually moved in was his business partner, Munir Uwaydah, a seemingly normal if somewhat flashy Lebanese American orthopedic surgeon in his 40s.

As it turned out, Uwaydah made his money by fraudulently billing insurance companies for surgeries performed on workers injured on the job. According to court documents, Uwaydah, Turley, and a ring of associates paid workers-comp attorneys and marketers thousands of dollars a month to send them patients, some of whom didn’t require surgery at all. Eventually, they created a web of fake entities to serve the grift: a surgical office to do the procedures patients didn’t need, an MRI facility to take the phony MRIs, and a pharmacy to bill for medications they never received. Dozens of patients were operated on by Uwaydah’s physician’s assistant. Some of them were permanently scarred. (“You idiots! What did you do?” one reportedly screamed after the physician’s assistant left 24 inches of gauze in her shoulder after surgery.) Uwaydah and his co-conspirators allegedly created shell companies to hide assets, and money flowed to Estonia and Lebanon, to a horse farm Uwaydah owned in Germany, and to real-estate acquisitions like the mansion.

In 2015, 15 people, including Uwaydah and Turley, were indicted on 132 felony counts in one of the largest insurance-fraud cases in California history. But by then Uwaydah was long gone, having fled the country in 2010, after his 21-year-old ex-girlfriend, an aspiring model named Juliana Redding, was strangled to death in her Santa Monica bungalow. Prosecutors alleged Uwaydah had paid one of his associates, a woman named Kelly Soo Park, to kill Redding. She was eventually acquitted; Turley wasn’t so lucky. In 2022, he was sentenced to two years in prison for his part in the medical-fraud scam. Uwaydah, meanwhile, was never charged in connection to Redding’s death and reportedly remains in Lebanon.

Through this entire saga, Uwaydah seems to have managed to retain control of the mansion. (Cleverly: Just months before Turley was indicted, he signed the deed over to an LLC called Notre Dame Properties, which, according to prosecutors, is controlled by Uwaydah.) That means that, unbeknownst to the neighbors, a fugitive surgeon in an ongoing criminal proceeding was acting as a landlord on their quiet block for more than a decade.

In 2021, things grew, if possible, more complicated when the mansion’s last tenant before Gargiulo moved in. Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry-O” Harris had just been pardoned by Donald Trump on federal drug-trafficking charges when he rented the mansion — through his company, Nulane Entertainment — for $14,000 a month. (Although the company was on the lease, neighbors say they saw Harris living there.) In court documents, Nulane claims to have signed an agreement that gave the company the option to eventually buy the house for $4.4 million. But a few days before the sale could go through, Notre Dame Properties sold it to yet another party, a different LLC called MDRCA Properties, managed by a Lebanese Canadian named Adel Yamout. The money for the house — $3.8 million — came from a hard-money lender named Jeff Scapa. Yamout wasn’t willing to be very specific about where he found the house in the first place. “I got it from the guys who got it from that guy,” he told me, implying he doesn’t know Uwaydah. In any case, Nulane sued all three parties, claiming breach of contract.

In the middle of this fracas, the state suddenly declared that, in fact, none of these people could have the mansion. The DA’s office had been fighting to seize properties connected to Uwaydah and his associates, including the Beverly Grove Place home, since Uwaydah’s 2015 indictment. And in January 2021, a judge had ordered a court-appointed receiver, a kind of trustee, to take control of the house. This was done under California’s “freeze and seize” law, which allows the state to confiscate the assets of people convicted of white-collar crimes. The house at 1316 should have been the people’s property, to be sold to pay restitution to victims of the fraud scheme. Instead, Notre Dame Properties seems to have ignored that fact and continued to rent out the mansion, then sell it. So in June 2023, in an attempt to clean up the mess, the same judge issued another order reappointing the receiver to sell the house, pay Scapa back, and give whatever was left over to Uwaydah’s victims.

Which is how Gargiulo found the mansion when he first toured it that September — uniquely entangled with a new owner bleeding money on a high-interest loan, a lender who needed to be repaid, and the state technically in charge of the place but evidently reluctant to act like a landlord. All he needed to do was slip inside.

Photo: Michelle Groskopf

By the end of November, the neighbors of 1316 Beverly Grove Place were beside themselves. While Googling the property, the producer learned about the Uwaydah saga, information he promptly passed on to the shocked Neighborhood Watch. Outside, all they could see was chaos on the cul-de-sac — people stumbling to and fro at all hours of the night; Duke, Ucci’s dog, collarless and barking on the street. Once, the morning revealed a luxury car totaled on the narrow street. “We got to get these bad people out of here,” someone urged in the chat. At one point, the police were called to the house for a burglary, which was laughable to the neighbors: The burglars were being burglarized.

The efforts to convince the court in charge of the mansion that the squatters presented a safety threat were being ignored for reasons the neighbors couldn’t fathom. They had no idea why, if 1316 was the property of the state, California couldn’t just evict their tormentors. But on December 1, the issue became moot: The judge reversed himself, officially returning the mansion to the most recent owner, Adel Yamout. The DA’s office would not comment on why it released the property. Officials likely realized that because of Scapa’s loan, which had to be paid back, there would be little money left over from a sale for Uwaydah’s victims. But the whiplash meant one thing to the neighbors: There was an owner of the mansion again who was willing and incentivized to start an eviction, and an unlawful-detainer lawsuit was filed against the occupants. Not right away, though — Yamout says it took weeks to get the paperwork in order.

That was too long for the producer, who decided to take matters into his own hands. He hired Mark Ebner, a veteran L.A. journalist turned private investigator. “Mark is the go-to PI for everyone in Hollywood,” the producer says. “Everyone knows him.” Ebner once had a glossy gonzo magazine career, starting out at Spy — for his first article, he joined the Church of Scientology. But about 14 years ago, he learned that PI work was better paid and more stable. He has a tattoo that reads SUICIDE BY MEDIA CAN TAKE A LIFETIME. Now, his clients are “nosebleed level” rich, according to Ebner. “I’m not using the baseball bat,” he explains in a raspy Rhode Island accent. “But I can work well within the boundaries and still get something done.”

The producer enlisted Ebner to wage a “maximum pressure” campaign on 1316. On December 29, armed with binoculars, his PI badge, golf clubs, Nicorette lozenges (for during), and weed (for after), he began a stakeout in his black SUV. His legion of off-duty security guards, out-of-work 20-somethings, and ex-cons took relief shifts. One day on the cul-de-sac, Ebner found a white Porsche with a plastic bag of pill capsules sitting in the window. He took photos of little silver nitrous-oxide canisters and crumpled red Solo cups lying in the gutter and on the grass. He chatted with some of the mansion’s visitors. “Are you coming to the dinner party?” one young woman asked him as he stood at the gate. He said “no.” “I’m sorry, my brain’s gone to mush,” she responded. “No kidding,” Ebner said.

On New Year’s Eve, the housemates hosted a major party. Ebner took the opportunity to run the plates on the cars outside 1316, then did a spate of background checks. As it turned out, Ucci had a startling 132 possible criminal infractions, some decades old — cocaine possession, arrests for felony burglary, an assault-and-battery conviction, forgery and counterfeiting, and illegal shellfishing at night, among others. Gargiulo’s eviction from an apartment on Yucca Street in Hollywood came up, as did his battery conviction, for which he was on probation. The producer shared the findings with the Neighborhood Watch. Rankin, the neighbor who works in tech, sent a flurry of emails with the information to a host of city employees and used a contact in former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s office to reach Karen Bass, the current mayor. Her office assigned the case to a public-safety officer with whom Rankin had a video call. “Then nothing,” he says. (The mayor’s office said it contacted police and the city attorney’s office.) So they decided to go to the press. “Dump it to the Daily Mail and watch it explode,” the producer told Ebner. Their article went up on January 19. “Beverly Hills mansion neighboring LeBron James’s dream home is overtaken by ‘squatters’ hosting nightly raucous raves and charging $75 entry,” it reads, severely underreporting the admission price.

Meanwhile, conflict in the house was threatening its fragile equilibrium. The parties seemed to be taking a toll on the pool, which was turning a brackish green. The neighbors witnessed one wasted woman being handcuffed outside the mansion; she yelled that it was a meth den. Police and fire trucks were routinely called by the housemates themselves, including Jane and Kim, who others say often summoned the cops on each other. The two women had side-by-side rooms and fought constantly. (“I’m as civil as I can be,” says Kim of their unique living arrangement. “I mean, I don’t enjoy the situation.”) Another time, police responded to an assault in which a person was attacked with a metal box, according to a Citizen-app item from the Neighborhood Watch chat. The assailant was apparently wearing a bucket hat.

About a week after the Daily Mail dump, the members of the unofficial mansion task force had a glimmer of hope that the negative attention had paid off. On January 26, the producer was having lunch at Soho House when his Neighborhood Watch notifications began pinging. “There are a million cops here!” someone said. “They’re getting them out.” The producer excused himself and zoomed up to Beverly Grove Place. By the time he got there, over a dozen LAPD officers, fully armed, had gone into the mansion. They had dragged out a shirtless Gargiulo, Vincent, Jane, and whoever else was in the house and lined them up along the wall in the driveway, handcuffing them, while helicopters hovered overhead. The neighbors gathered to watch, feeling a considerable amount of Schadenfreude as they saw the inhabitants squinting and twitching in the sun.

At the end of the day, however, the police let them go. The LAPD had not, as it looked to the neighbors, been raiding the house for squatters. The inhabitants themselves had called in a report of intruders with a knife; Gargiulo later said three bedraggled people had run into the house through the open door, screaming that they were there to serve some papers and terrorizing the still-partying guests. Gargiulo believes they were members of the Squatter Squad, a “same-day squatter-removal” service in Irvine, trying to go viral online. The intruders had run back out, and the cops released those they had handcuffed. It was a major defeat for the Neighborhood Watch. “Our judicial system is a joke,” the producer complains. “ ‘Squatters have rights’ — okay, I get that they do, if they’re a family and they’re displaced. But this is not your typical homeless person. This was a lifestyle play.” The producer and other neighbors began to text me more examples of harrowing squatter tales from L.A. and beyond: a house inhabited by OnlyFans creators in Hollywood, a British construction worker who moved into a retiree’s home and flipped it for nearly $200,000.

KTLA caught the white-haired Ucci coming back to the house — apparently he hadn’t been at home when the raid happened. He introduced himself as Mr. Gucci. “Now that I’m back, there will be no more parties,” Mr. Gucci proclaimed to the cameras, closing the gate.

By February, the house at 1316 Beverly Grove Place was in a period of détente. Yamout had officially sued the residents for eviction on January 18, and since the raid, the raves had quieted down. The housemates were still having people over, but it wasn’t the same. The crowd was smaller. “Shit’s broken. Trash everywhere. The pool is disgusting,” says the 22-year-old, who was there recently. “We were doing lines off of wooden tables outside.” Why did he go back? “It’s still a nice house,” he says.

From the back, where the Mediterranean inspired pool and patio were visible, the mansion looked fairly bombed out. A shabby rug hung over the side of the building; cheap-looking folding chairs were strewn around the patio. A pirate flag was crumpled in the corner. On the second floor, gray blankets had been hung from the balconies in an attempt at noise mitigation. Trash littered the grass below. A plastic beach ball was on the ground.

Gargiulo absconded to Vegas for most of the month, where he tells me he stayed at the Wynn during the Super Bowl. He has no qualms about staying in the mansion even after everything that happened. “When I discovered that there were situations which were not as legitimate as I thought,” he says, “I obviously spoke to lawyer friends of mine, and I understood that there were rights that I could use to stay, at least until the completion of the lease. I’ve heard that this is the way it works in America with these kinds of things.” Anyway, he says, “I don’t feel I have done anything bad.” Just the opposite: “I actually feel I brought to Los Angeles some wonderful, wonderful moments of joy and music, and I’ve seen people very happy. I’ve seen people fall in love.” He especially resented how he had been characterized in the press. This wasn’t a master plan, he says. They weren’t even trying to make money. Plus: “The parties were very refined. I’ve seen, like, you know, the Daily Mail and many other news outlets talking about me as a sophisticated criminal, as a pirate and all these things, when at the end of the day, I don’t think it is even comparable, what I have done, to people who are involved in $150 million scams and murder,” he says gravely, referencing Uwaydah.

It’s true that for all the neighbors’ fears about living in the midst of criminals, they already had been; they just didn’t know it. The latest accused fraudsters to take up residence were louder, more obvious, and more desperate than their predecessors, but the mansion had long been in the possession of people who got it by lying and stealing. And for all the court’s efforts, it may still be. The current owner — Yamout, to whom the government turned the house back over in December — recently clarified that he actually does know Uwaydah, but just barely. This would appear to be the case: In 2021, according to a lawsuit filed in the Netherlands, Yamout purchased the right to harvest eggs from a prizewinning jumping show horse named Oak Grove’s Heartfelt. Who co-owned Heartfelt the horse? Munir Uwaydah via one of his many businesses. Yamout’s lawyer also represented Uwaydah as recently as 2021. (When asked about these connections, that lawyer says Yamout and Uwaydah “are not personally engaged in business activities.”)

On February 23, the housemates had their day in court. Up until almost the very end, they believed there was a chance they could stay in the mansion. Vincent, Kim, Gargiulo, and Jane showed up to the hearing together — everyone except Ucci, who was never named in the eviction lawsuit and didn’t have to attend. He had hoped he could buy the mansion through his global-awareness nonprofit and turn it into “sober living for CEOs. I can double the square footage and the value in less than a year,” he says, claiming he had already repaired the dryer and was working on cleaning the pool. During the hearing, Vincent made an impassioned plea for the constitutional right to a jury trial and for the court to cover any fees. Like Gargiulo, he seems surprised by the neighbors’ characterization of the mansion parties. “Orgies?” Vincent says. “I wish.”

The Villa de Leone residents’ desire to stay was existential but also not enough. When it became clear the judge would not side in the group’s favor, the housemates settled with Yamout, coming to an agreement that they would leave the mansion in 30 days. In the meantime, there would be no more parties. Duke had to stay inside. Yamout could bring further legal action if the property was severely damaged. It wasn’t — not really. At a court-mandated inspection a week later, Yamout’s lawyer, Scapa the lender, a few brokers, and an insurance appraiser found filthy floors, some holes in the wall, a layer of algae on the pool, and a broken fridge in the foyer. The occupants were already packing — a few of them were spotted out by the garage, flinging the Moroccan-inspired poufs into a truck. A video was disseminated to the Neighborhood Watch chat, which was already starting to die down. “Good riddance, grifters,” one neighbor wrote.

The Squatters of Beverly Hills