IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

L.A. man arrested after taking over woman's New Jersey home, authorities say

The suspect was one of four men "who claimed to be sovereign citizens of the Al Moroccan Empire and that their status permitted them access to the property," officials said.

A Los Angeles man let himself into a vacant New Jersey home, claiming rights to the property through his Black nationalist group, authorities said.

Hubert A. John, 39, was booked on charges of criminal mischief, burglary, trespassing and making terroristic threats after his temporary takeover of the Ivy Street residence in Newark on June 17, according to officials.

The odd encounter began to unfold about noon ET when a woman, who purchased the house in February and was planning renovations, couldn't get inside because four men "were claiming to have legal residency of her vacant property and had changed the locks," Newark Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara said in a statement.

The woman called police, and responding officers "requested the documentation from the four suspects, who claimed to be sovereign citizens of the Al Moroccan Empire and that their status permitted them access to the property," the statement continued.

The men followed officers' instructions to leave, and the homeowner called for a locksmith to come to Ivy Street, officials said.

But John returned before the locksmith could change the locks, "used a key and entered the home before placing a Moorish flag in the window" about 2:40 p.m., O'Hara said. That drew Newark police's Emergency Services Unit to the scene. Officers entered the house and arrested John.

It was not clear Thursday if John was still in custody. His name was not listed in Essex County jail records and a spokeswoman for the Newark Department of Public Safety could not say whether the suspect was in custody or had been released with an ankle monitor.

John's attorney could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

The Al Moroccan Empire is part of a larger "Moorish sovereigns" movement of believers who often come "into conflict with federal and state authorities over their refusal to obey laws and government regulations," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Moorish sovereigns espouse an interpretation of sovereign doctrine that African Americans constitute an elite class within American society with special rights and privileges that convey on them a sovereign immunity placing them beyond federal and state authority," according to the SPLC.

In addition to the Al Moroccan Empire, groups with similar beliefs include the Free Moorish Nation and the United Mawshakh Nation of Nuurs.