Family refuses to leave

RAINBOW LAKE – A local family was arrested here Monday when they refused to leave their home after it had been sold at public auction for failure to pay more than $90,000 in property taxes.

Noel Prellwitz, 53, his wife Susan Leubert, 61, and their daughter, 22-year-old Kama Prellwitz, were led out of the lakefront house at 81 Hull Road in handcuffs by Franklin County sheriff’s deputies and taken to the Franklin County Jail in Malone. They were later each arraigned before town of Brighton Justice Nik Santagate on a charge of obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor. Noel Prellwitz was also charged with resisting arrest.

The one-and-a-half-acre property had been sold in late June in a county sale of tax-delinquent properties after its owner, Noel Prellwitz, accumulated $92,955 in unpaid taxes, according to the county Treasurer’s Office. The high bidder was John Matarese of Franklin Lakes, N.J., who bought the property for $230,000.

Franklin County Undersheriff Patrick White said the county served a notice of eviction last week to the family.

“They had 72 hours (in) which to make arrangements to remove themselves from the building,” he said. “They did not do that. The deputies went up there (Monday) morning to perform the eviction, and the people refused to leave, so we took them in custody for obstructing.”

The new owner hired a team of a dozen people to remove the family’s belongings, which were being packed into a U-Haul trailer and other vehicles that could be seen parked outside the house Monday afternoon. A sheriff’s deputy was on scene to oversee the operation.

While they were removing belongings, White said authorities found several marijuana plants and several thousand dollars in cash inside the house, although the exact amount is still being determined. The marijuana will likely be turned over to state police, who could file additional charges, White said.

The undersheriff said he expects it will take several days to remove all the belongings from the house.

“They haven’t even got done with the main house, let alone the other outlying buildings,” he said.

White said his department performs evictions all the time.

“Rarely do we run into a situation where the guy (Noel Prellwitz) absolutely, positively refuses to leave the property,” he said. “Normally, with tax auctions, the property has already been vacated. In this particular situation, the guy who was living there, he has no interest in paying his taxes but wants to keep living on the property, and Franklin County government doesn’t allow that to happen.”

Leubert and Kama Prellwitz have been released on $1,500 cash bail. Noel Prellwitz remains behind bars in Malone on the same amount of bail.

“Somebody came to bail him out, but he refused to comply with the process here,” White said. “He refuses to comply and answer any questions, so basically you take that as a refusal for the bail. So he’s still here.”

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or