Posted by Terry Alexander - email
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More investors are coming forward tonight, accusing a Hanover county man of running a real estate scam. The FBI is investigating whether former Henrico county police officer Donald Lacey bilked hundreds of families in Richmond and across the country out of millions of dollars.
Since we first told you about Donald Lacey two weeks ago, people have called from as far away as Florida to tell us their story. A Richmond based company tells us at least 170 investors lost as much as 17 million dollars in real estate deals with Lacey. Lacey's attorney says his client was just a victim of the housing collapse.
"Sometimes you almost have to laugh or else you'd cry," said Marc Denning.
Denning's friends and family have $130,000 invested in a house in Church Hill.
In all, $245,000 was put into that house. Except there is no house.
"Unless there's oil underneath this lot I don't see it being worth a quarter of a million dollars. So, we'd like to know where the money is for this property," said Denning.
It's a question a lot of people in Richmond have been asking lately.
Several investors say Donald Lacey promised 10 to 12 percent interest if they gave him their money to flip houses. But in November Lacey defaulted on every loan and the interest checks stopped coming.
Marc Denning lost his life savings.
"Crying, anger are a lot of my emotions. A lot of people's life savings was up here in a lot of these properties and it was just gone in one phone call," Denning said.
Lacey was supposed to invest the money in third party builders that would flip the homes. The money actually went to companies like Tower Building, Premier Investments. All owned by Lacey.
Denning does not live in Richmond.
"A lot of us actually never drove out here till after the cards went down and actually saw what we were investing in. Which is part of our faults. We should have done more research," said Denning.
He's now been here three times. Driving up from Asheville, North Carolina, looking for answers.
"A lot of people's lives will never be the same because of this. I don't know if Don Lacey realizes that, cares about that," said Denning.
"Mr Lacey is doing everything he can to return people's money and to act in good faith," said Steve Benjamin who is Donald Lacey's attorney.
Benjamin says his client was simply ambitious and did nothing criminal.
"Some properties might appear to be simply a vacant lot and unless you know that particular project you wouldn't understand that extensive work had been done clearing that lot. Removing an old rotten shell so that a new structure could be built," said Steve Benjamin.
As for Denning, he's planning to move to Richmond so he can renovate these homes himself. Trying to get back what little money he can.
"I lost half a million dollars. That's everything," said Denning.
Denning also tells me he's been interviewed by the FBI several times.