GREENWICH, CONN. -- A millionaire facing criminal charges after he went around town defacing "For Sale" signs he said marred the landscape in tony Greenwich has become a folk hero among some residents, officials said.

Town Planner Jim Sandy said he has received at least 35 letters supporting Rene Anselmo, 64, who was arrested July 3 for spray-painting a real estate sign Anselmo said was offensive and illegal. Anselmo pleaded not guilty to a charge of third-degree criminal mischief.

"I'm getting letter after letter saying he should be knighted instead of cited," Sandy said. "They love him."

After his arrest, the 64-year-old president of Pan American Satellite Corp. said real estate signs were "turning all these streets into a used car lot."

He said he spray-painted the sign because it had been illegally placed on town property, and he admitted he had painted others.

"The town should recognize your efforts to beautify and improve the quality of life, instead of charging you, of all people, with mischief," said one resident who wrote to Sandy.

Said another: "Bully for you! I have wanted to do that for years."

Real estate agents, who are trying to sell houses in a slow market, are unhappy.

Stanley Klein, president of Empire Realty Corp., called Anselmo's actions "mindless vandalism."

"I was almost tempted to spray-paint Mr. Anselmo's gate," Klein said.

Anselmo, a resident for 23 years, donated $40,000 to the town last year to plant trees and pays annually for the planting of flowers on town property.

He faces a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and six months in prison if convicted. He is due back in Superior Court in Stamford Aug. 24.