Golf carts are a big deal in The Villages, a mammoth, planned retirement community ruled by a secretive developer and posing as a quasi-city in central Florida. Owned by many of its 150,000 residents, they're used as a main form of transportation to 11am happy hours, an expression of wealth and taste, and the occasional passionate rendezvous.
So in a way, it's both amazing and completely fitting that a shadowy black market for golf carts should exist under The Villages' veneer of civility and sunshine. On Wednesday, a SWAT team and deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office raided a notorious problem house in one of the complex's neighborhoods and discovered drugs, paraphernalia, and evidence of a full-fledged golf cart "chop shop."
For months, neighbors had complained that a younger relative of the sickly old homeowner had moved in with a few other shady characters and set up shop selling drugs and stealing golf carts. In addition to finding heroin and methamphetamine during the raid, officers uncovered a whole bunch of golf cart parts, including wheels, tires, seats, windshields, and various other fitments.
Police have yet to connect the parts haul with any of the recent local thefts, but it wouldn't be the first time something like this went down in The Villages. In May, deputies busted up a three-person golf cart theft ring that swiped upwards of 30 carts a month from unsuspecting residents and resold them for cash.