Most homeowners would agree that pool heater repairs are relatively easy to obtain as long as you contact a reputable company. However, Vanilla Ice might beg to disagree: the rapper and actor recently reached a plea deal with Florida prosecutors after being accused of stealing several items, including a pool heater, from a neighbor’s mansion. But while his felony charge was dismissed, Ice will have to meet a number of conditions to avoid jail time.
Robert Van Winkle, better known by the stage name Vanilla Ice, was arrested in Lantana, FL on Wednesday, February 18 after being accused of burglarizing a vacant home. The 47-year-old rapper was reportedly renovating a house nearby for his show on the DIY Network, called the Vanilla Ice Project. While he initially claimed that he found the stolen property discarded on the curb, his work crew told police that Van Winkle had told them he owned the house, which is currently in foreclosure. He reportedly sent them inside twice to remove objects, including several pieces of furniture, a pool heater, and bicycles. Some of these stolen items were later found inside Van Winkle’s home.
The former star was soon released from the Palm Beach County Jail on a $6,000 bond, leaving the felony charge to his lawyers, Bradford Cohen and Joe LoRusso. After some negotiation, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the felony as long as Van Winkle does not commit any other offenses for nine months. He will also be required to pay $1,300 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service with Habitat for Humanity. After these stipulations are met, his record will be wiped clean.
The stolen property has since been returned to its rightful owner, who expressed confusion that objects he described as “junk” would be stolen. Many others have also expressed confusion that someone would risk jail time for a few pieces of furniture, bicycles and a pool heater.
“Most pool heaters are fairly rugged because they’re meant to be outside,” said Bill Ward, owner of RCM Heating and Cooling. “People usually remove them during the winter months and they can usually withstand being moved. The most damage occurs during improper installation, so people should be careful to install their pool heater correctly.”
However, this is far from Van Winkle’s first brush with the law: over the past 20 years, he has been arrested numerous times for everything from drag racing to threatening a homeless man with a weapon, as well as assaulting his wife in 2001 and 2008. However, Van Winkle’s rap career has long hinted at a more serious criminal background: for example, his most famous hit, “Ice Ice Baby,” describes a drug deal and drive-by shooting Van Winkle reportedly experienced with a friend when he was 16.
For his part, Van Winkle has maintained that the entire theft in Lantana was a misunderstanding, commenting that it is a shame “good news doesn’t travel this fast.” The DIY Network has stated that they are looking into the case, but that there are currently no plans to cancel the Vanilla Ice Project.