Dozens of vacant properties in Richmond could be in limbo for years

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A federal investigation into the investment deals of a Hanover County man may leave dozens of old homes in the city empty for years.

Donald Lacey was charged this week with two felonies. Lacey was supposed to buy old homes in up and coming neighborhoods of the city and then flip them for a profit. But the government says Lacey rarely used investor's money for the homes. And now nearly 100 sit on the city's vacant property registry.

Empty, boarded up, falling apart....

Donald Lacey's houses are scattered around Church Hill and North Richmond.

Al Mullian says most properties have, "No toilets, No electrical, no plumbing, No painting. Most of them did not have windows in it. They were boarded up."

Most of Lacey's houses have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied to them. There are multiple investors. Mullian says he lost $2 million. He believes he was the victim of a scheme.

He says Richmond lost something too, "This idea was wonderful. That's why I went with it. I felt I was helping the city of Richmond rebuild."

Now all of these properties could be tied up in court for years. If Lacey's convicted they could be forfeited to the U.S. Government. That's on top of the battle facing 170 investors. They're still trying to sort out who owns what.

David Herring says, "Who knows how long it's going to take to get these things cleared up so they can be sold."

Herring is the Executive Director of the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods. A group that's worked for the last 11 years to fix blight and fill vacant properties.

Herring says, "Many of his properties are absolutely able to renovated and rehabilitated. The fact that they're just going to sit there for who knows how long. Is just really really sickening."

Lacey will appear in federal court next month on a charge of mail fraud and unlawful monetary transactions. He's expected to enter into a plea agreement. It is still unclear what will happen to all the properties.

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