Randy Young calls himself “a Robin Hood” for Florida’s sex offenders. Neighbors say he ruins communities.
For about three years, Young has been buying and renting houses, condos and trailers and leasing them as “habitats” for registered sex offenders.
He targets properties, often in foreclosure, within the few remaining zones where convicted sex offenders can legally live in Florida.
He once ran an entire trailer park for sex offenders in Orange County and was cited for cramming 24 men into a three-bedroom house in central Broward County.
“I am providing a service people need,” said Young, 53, a registered sex offender himself.
“In the world of sex offenders, it’s either a mattress inside a room with other offenders, or living under a bridge.”
But for the neighbors living next door, Young’s business is a nightmare.
“He has no respect for us, and no shame for what he’s done,” said Wilfredo Lantos, whose family lives next to a home Young owned in unincorporated Broward.
Young’s business model is straightforward. He advertises his house-hunting services as “Habitat for Sex Offenders” on his Web site, Housingforsex offenders.com. The site also helps match visitors with “sex offender friendly” attorneys, counselors and employers.
Young is registered as living and working from Cocoa, and as living part-time in Broward, St. Petersburg and Zephyrhills in central Florida. An accountant by training, he once owned an upholstery business.
He was convicted in 2003 in Volusia County of lewd or lascivious conduct on a minor and was sentenced to 11 months of incarceration and seven years of probation.
He is labeled a sex offender for life. He says a teenager had sex with an adult at a party at his house.
Young declined to say where his homes are located, fearing neighbors and local officials would torment his company and tenants. Over the past three years, he said, he has purchased 15 Florida homes and found housing for about 300 sex offenders.
He says he charges anywhere from $400 a month for a mattress-sized flop, up to $1,000 for a private room. He declined to say how much money he makes, but says it’s not much. He describes himself as a soft touch.
“A lot of these guys can’t find jobs,” Young said. “So many of the times they just give me 20 bucks, and I let them stay until they can find somewhere else.”
Corrections officials said they don’t keep track of how many houses Young runs, but are aware of several in South Florida and Central Florida, including in Orlando and Cocoa.
At one point, Young operated an trailer park in Orange County called Lake Shore Village Mobile Home Park. Young said he sold park after neighbors and local authorities started to crack down on his business.
Young routinely e-mails probation officers listings of his available housing and they, in turn, give the lists to the sex offenders they supervise, to help them find places to live, state officials said.
Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said her department, which supervises sex offenders on probation, takes no position on Young’s business venture.
It’s all legal as long as the homes meet local codes and are outside the restricted boundaries.
“It’s a probationer’s responsibility to find housing,” she said. “They give us an address, and all we do is tell them whether or not it’s legal for them to live there.”