Hat tip to downturn for sending this along, from tampabay.com:
When armored vehicles knocked down the house on 28th Avenue S in St. Petersburg on Monday, it climaxed an hours-long gunfight that claimed the lives of two St. Petersburg police officers and the wanted felon who shot them, Hydra Lacy Jr.
It was also the last echo of the frenzied house-flipping that lured Lacy and millions of other investors during the nation’s real estate boom.
The Crayola-orange dwelling at 3734 28th Ave. S was the only house among seven that Lacy bought between 2004 and 2007 that did not end up in foreclosure. But like all the others, its flattened remains are testament to a bust that has hit St. Petersburg’s Midtown area especially hard.
“The properties are back in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and three years, maybe four years ago they were in the $100,000-plus amount,” says Lou Brown, a veteran real estate agent. “I guess maybe we got a little greedy.”
Lacy first plunged into the real estate market in February 2004 while he was still single and just three years out of state prison. He had served nine years of a 20-year sentence for raping a high school student.
At some point after his release, Lacy made good money as the foreman of a trucking company, his sister-in-law has said. But it is not known if he was employed when he got 100 percent financing for the $116,000 purchase price of the house in which the violent episode played out Monday.
The lender, North Carolina-based Decision One Mortgage, catered to borrowers with poor credit. It went out of business in 2007.
Lacy married Christine Mary Jewell Pitts on July 4, 2004.
Two years later, the couple refinanced their home for $180,000. About the same time, they bought a house on 11th Avenue S for $135,000. The sellers, a St. Petersburg couple, had purchased it less than three months earlier for $74,000.
In August 2006, the Lacys bought another house. They paid $135,000 for a place on 23rd Street S that had sold two years earlier for $80,000.
Such price jumps in the area were not unusual then, Brown says.
“The decade or so before, there was a lot of investment on the north side (of St. Petersburg), so much so that it may have been saturated, and so investment came over to the south side,” Brown says. “That really led to the real estate boom and a lot of values in the south side shot up.”
(Brown was not involved in any of the Lacys’ real estate transactions.)
The market was beginning to cool by 2007. But that didn’t stop the Lacys from paying what turned out to be top dollar in three separate transactions that year.
By April 2007, a Largo woman, Kasenie Akbarally, had defaulted on two houses on 23rd Avenue S that she had bought in 2005 — one for $97,400, the other for $95,900.
Yet within three months of getting foreclosure notices, Akbarally managed to sell both houses to the Lacys at a hefty profit. They paid $145,000 for each.
That May, a New York woman, Shermeela Asgaralli, received a foreclosure notice on a house in Largo that she had bought for $95,000 in 2005. Yet she, too, quickly sold to the Lacys for $145,000.
Neither woman could be reached for comment. All three deals had a common denominator — a 35-year-old felon named Aneil Balkissoon.
Balkissoon, who signed for the women as attorney-in-fact, had been released from state prison in 2003 after serving almost two years for charges that included forgery, burglary, grand theft, fraudulent use of credit cards and trafficking in stolen property.
On his MySpace page, Balkissoon lists his occupation as “real estate” though he has never had a Florida real estate license, according to state records.
Balkissoon briefly returned a reporter’s call for comment and said he’d call back when he had more time to speak. He did not call back and did not respond to voice messages.
In October 2007, even though prices were sinking, the Lacys made their final and most expensive purchase. They paid $165,000 for a house on 15th Avenue S that had been owned by a woman since the 1970s.
As with most of the other houses, they apparently put down several thousand dollars and borrowed the rest.
Hydra Lacy had worked almost continuously since their marriage and once made $50,000 annually, Christine said in a deposition taken after he was charged in 2009 with attacking her with swords and liquor bottles. But she said his income had plunged after he was hurt in a motorcycle accident around 2006.
Christine Lacy said she too worked, at one point holding down three jobs because of the “economical times.” By 2009, the couple were in default on six of their seven houses.
Last Nov. 8, Hydra Lacy quitclaimed the deed to the seventh house — the first one he ever bought — to his estranged wife.
Today, one of the houses is for sale and two appear vacant. Another, on 23rd Avenue S, has been declared unfit for human habitation. And the city of St. Petersburg bought the one just down the street for $19,800, using federal funds earmarked for acquiring foreclosed properties in run-down condition.
“Typically we either renovate and sell them to qualified families or we demolish and build new houses,” says Paul Stellrecht, one of the city’s economic development coordinators.
Last year the city got a demolition permit and the house fell to the same fate as the one razed by police on Monday. All that remains is a vacant lot and a “No Trespassing” sign.