A Buckhead real estate investor who has become the Atlanta mayor's Public Enemy No. 1 is denying that he owns or operates derelict properties that could land him in jail. But an AJC check of public records says the opposite.
Rick Warren is a frequent flyer in the city’s housing court, and he now faces 14 or so trials for hazardous conditions at his properties. On Tuesday, Warren’s attorney George Lawson argued that he should not be convicted because they are owned by corporations that don’t list Warren as an owner in state records.
Warren, who is white, owns some 150 properties in and around a mostly poor and black neighborhood. English Avenue is just west of the construction of a $1.4 billion Falcons stadium, and last year, in my 2014 project “Betting on the Bluff,” I wrote about how the crime and filth at Warren's houses are overwhelming attempts by residents to revive the struggling community. To my surprise, the story touched a nerve, perhaps because of the west side’s place in civil rights history. Race and class grievances seem to carry extra weight on those streets, and Mayor Kasim Reed and others have seized upon the Buckhead entrepreneur as a villain.
Back when I was doing my initial reporting, I expected Warren to claim he didn’t own these properties. He used limited liability corporations, a kind of entity that can shield the identity of a company’s owner, to purchase them. Also, he once said under oath that his wife owned one of the companies and he did all the work without pay.
I collected public documents where Warren acknowledged full or partial ownership, but I never needed to use them. He acknowledged ownership to me on the record. Case closed, I thought.
Now that a denial is back in play, it’s time to post some of these documents.
R City and West Star Holdings own properties for which Warren is standing trial. Here’s a sample of what the public record says.
EM GLOBAL, and R CITY, LLC v. FOL: This Dec. 10, 2012 filing, made by R City’s attorney in Fulton County Superior Court, describes Warren on page four as “Mr. Richard Warren, the sole shareholder of R City and Manager of West Star.” It also states R City has partial ownership of West Star. See: R City V. FOL Warren Dec. 10_Redacted
EM GLOBAL, and R CITY, LLC v. FOL: R City’s attorney describes Warren as “R City’s sole member” on page two of this Dec. 14, 2012 filing. It states that R City had part ownership in West Star. See: R City LLC v FOL Dec. 14
Pavilack Industries bankruptcy: Warren purchased a number of his properties from Pavilack Industries, a South Carolina real estate investment company, when it went bankrupt during the real estate bust. Records of the purchases were filed in federal court as part of the case. Page one of this filing describes West Star Holdings, LLC, as “assignee for R City, LLC of PO Box 92383, Atlanta, GA, 30314.” On page 12, Warren signs as “manager” of R City. Trustee's Report of Sales of 23 Properties from Pavilack to West Star Holdings_Redacted
Warren is scheduled to be back in municipal court July 14 to begin trial on code violations at another one of his properties. Judge Crystal Gains has yet to rule on violations at two others. Check back next week for more updates.