The mansion’s rank odor is as foul as the unspeakable deeds done there when occupied by a religious sect leader now serving a 137-year prison sentence on federal child molestation and racketeering charges.
Yet at least a half dozen people showed up to inspect the palatial nine-bedroom house at 155 Mansfield Court in west Athens once owned by Dwight “Malachi” York. The U.S. Marshals Service is auctioning the house, one of two York properties seized following York’s conviction in January 2004.
No one has lived in the mansion for three years, since York’s arrest in May 2002, and the odor of mildew hangs heavily in the two-story brick building today.
Two prospective buyers who inspected the property Friday – Brad Stephens, a Duluth home builder, and David Felt, an Athens attorney – were considering a bid as partners to repair the cut-rate mansion and resell it for a profit.
The size of the 8,309-square-foot house might scare away buyers more than the stigma of its previous owner, Stephens said.
“I build $500,000 spec houses, but this place makes me a little nervous – it’s just so big,” he said. “How would you use up all this space?”
Felt agreed that finding a buyer might be difficult.
“You’d need to find someone famous, like an Atlanta professional athlete who wants to be on ‘MTV Cribs,’ ” the real-estate attorney said, referring to the cable music channel’s show that features homes of the rich and famous.
The property includes 61/2 bathrooms and a three-car garage in the main house, along with a guest house and a swimming pool with pool house.
As mansions come, it is a definite fixer-upper, with peeling wallpaper, unhinged interior doors, unkempt landscaping and the pervasive odor of mildew.
The minimum bid in the on-line auction, which closes at 3 p.m. today, was $420,000. As of late Tuesday afternoon, auctioneers had only two bids, the latest a $445,000 offer for the house that York bought in 1998 for $528,000, and, according to the Marshals Service, is assessed at $840,000.
The mansion sits on just under an acre of land on a cul-de-sac of upscale houses off Timothy Road near Epps Bridge Road.
York, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., started the sect the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors in New York City in the late 1960s. The group moved to Georgia in 1993, with some 500 of York’s followers, settling on a 476-acre compound in Eatonton.
In addition to the Mansfield Court property, York also bought the former Ideal Amusements building on West Broad Street in Athens for $385,000. The building, painted by the Nuwaubians in Egyptian motif, was supposed to be used as a store to sell York’s books and other goods made by or relating to his sect, but the venture never got off the ground.
Known by York’s followers simply as “The Land,” the Putnam County compound resembled an Egyptian theme park, with large pyramids, a replica of a sphinx and an entrance gate covered with hieroglyphics.
From the compound, Nuwaubians sold various books – including York’s version of the Bible, “The Holy Tablets,” at $300 per copy – along with incense, coloring books, audio tapes, pens and pencils and even a lifelike Malachi York doll. Many of the rooms in the Athens mansion had Internet connections, which seemed to support the government’s case it had been used to run York’s illegal enterprise.
Prosecutors said York ran a bustling mail-order business from the stately home, where he may have housed more than 20 people, judging from bunk beds discovered there.
Neighbors also had complained to Athens-Clarke police that outdoor religious services were conducted at the property, where they said York was running a religion school.
The government also seized the Eatonton compound, valued at about $1 million, and sold it in June to an undisclosed buyer. According to authorities, York regularly had sex with more than a dozen children at both sites.
The commercial property on West Broad Street in Athens has not been seized.
Nuwaubian teachings incorporated parts of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Egyptian mysticism, and York promised followers that when the Apocalypse came, they would be among the 144,000 “believers” who would be spirited away by the mother ship from the planet Rizq from the galaxy of Illyuwn.
The group now calls itself the Yamassee Native American Moors, and York changed his title to Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle.
York, now 60, was convicted in January 2004 in U.S. District Court in Macon on charges of conspiracy, racketeering, transporting minors for unlawful sex and tax evasion, among other crimes. He is in a special housing unit of the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and has appealed his conviction.
The nine-bedroom, six-and-a-half bathroom home will be up for auction online at www.bid4assets.com/ath through today at 3 p.m.
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