Lacey charged with felonies, accused of bilking millions

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A former Henrico County police officer accused of bilking millions of dollars from dozens of investors, is expected to enter into a plea agreement next month.

Donald Lacey will be in court in March 15. NBC12 has been investigating complaints about Lacey for more than a year. So has the federal government, and today it charged him with two felony counts: mail fraud and unlawful monetary transactions.

Donald Lacey left the force eight years ago to start a real estate company and several investment groups.

He was supposed to take the money and invest it with third party builders into homes. The properties would be fixed up and then flipped for a profit.

Lisa Avram invested. She told NBC12 last year, "I feel very duped, it is embarrassing in a sense."

Marc Denning's family gave $500,000. He said in January of 2009 there was, "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."

All of their money, now gone. Don Lacey defaulted on every loan.... 170 investors and $17 million. The homes, scattered through the Church Hill and Jackson Ward neighborhoods were almost always untouched.

The U.S. government alleges Lacey invested their money into groups like Tower, Premier -- all companies he controlled. The government says Lacey rarely used the money for the actual real estate investments.

He's charged with mail fraud, for a letter he sent to investors in September of 2008, claiming their investments were safe and secure.

But two months earlier the government alleges Lacey took $55,000 of investor's money and paid his American Express account. He's charged with unlawful monetary transactions.

Retired firefighter Jack Graybeale, 71, lost his life savings. He visited Richmond from Florida last January to salvage what he could. He said by phone today,  "justice is slow, but it works."

He went on to say, "This is very good news to us, not that we're going to get any of our money back but at least he's going to pay for what he's done to all these families."

According to the statute, if convicted, Lacey could face up to 40 years in prison. He would also have to forfeit to the U.S. government any property or money (valued up to $20 million) that's related to these charges.

NBC12 spoke to Lacey's attorney by phone this afternoon and he had no comment on the charges.

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