Cleaners move in on 'hoarder' with $400B claim against county

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- The Lewis County Health Department recently started cleaning what some are calling a horrendous case of hoarding, but the property owner is fighting back.

The county cleaning crew wrapped up day one of the mammoth clean-up project on Wednesday, and there's plenty of work left to do.

County officials say they're using their legal authority to force Victor Bonagofski to clean up his property, which they consider a health hazard.

"He just does his own thing, beats to a little different drum," said Dan Lael, who runs a landscaping company located across the street from Bonagofski.

Lael has never met Bonagofski, but he's seen him riding a bike with a trailer and picking up everything from soda cans to water heaters to chunks of concrete.

"His stuff, although junk to 99.9 percent of the people, is still worth something," Lael said.

Bonagofski insists his "junk" is worth a lot of money. According to the chronicle newspaper, Bonagofski filed a claim demanding nearly $400 billion in compensation from the county.

He said the money is for all the vehicles, appliances, nuts, bolts and nails that county workers have removed from his home over the years.

Lewis County and Bonagofski are locked in a court battle over the property. The county is trying to foreclose on him and has declared the acres of junk a threat to public safety and health.

"Some people don't care one way of another and think it's too much government involvement. Some people want it cleaned up because it looks like crap," Lael said.

Bonagofski claims the county is stealing his belongings and infringing on his right to be left alone.

"Other people feel sorry for him because he probably does have some sort of mental illness," Lael said.

The health department estimates it could take two more weeks to clean up the mess on Bonagofski's land.