Saturday, May 19, 2018
Business

Atop the list of homes with unpaid tax bills in Pinellas County

The Pinellas residents who owe the most in property taxes aren't struggling single moms, laid-off construction workers or retirees surviving on a fixed income. Instead, the delinquent taxpayers' stories read like a reality show following lavish lifestyles. • Collectively, the three with the highest unpaid residential bills on a single piece of property owe more than $200,000 in 2012 taxes. After months of mailed reminders, tax bills were due March 31. The debt on unpaid bills was sold to outside investors June 1 but the county still considers the bills delinquent.

Fazal Fazlin, $89,734

Fazal Fazlin, has hosted many charity events at his 16,187-square-foot estate at 900 Park St. N in St. Petersburg. Party guests support causes such as Eckerd College, the Abilities Foundation, the SPCA and the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation. He hosted fundraisers for Charlie Crist during his 2010 run for Senate.

But now the 63-year-old owes $89,734 in property taxes on the home that sits on 5 acres on Boca Ciega Bay. He bought the estate in 1999 for $2 million. Fazlin, a native of Pakistan, founded technology company Advanced Plasma Systems and sold it in the mid 1990s. He has been involved in several high-tech businesses since.

Fazlin, who could not be reached for comment, made additions to the estate so the house can host hundreds of people for events. Thousands of square feet of pavers have been added to the back lawn around the pool to accommodate crowds. Even the garage has numerous electrical outlets and restaurant-grade stainless steel food preparation areas for caterers.

Sky Lucas, $57,917

Sky Lucas, a hedge fund manager who was delinquent on $20 million in income taxes in January, owes $57,917 for a corner penthouse on Clearwater Beach. He bought the 5,349-square-foot Sandpearl unit for $4.6 million in 2008. Along with that home on the 16th floor, he owes Pinellas County $75,000 in property taxes on three other waterfront condos and a vacant lot on the Gulf of Mexico.

Though he also lives in New Hampshire, Lucas, age 56, bought the Pinellas properties between 2008 and 2010 for a combined price of $10 million. Several businesses associated with his investment fund had Florida ties at the time.

The Internal Revenue Service placed liens on the Clearwater properties when he was delinquent on income taxes but the liens were released earlier this year.

Vicis Capital, the hedge fund Lucas started with two partners in 2004, managed $5 billion at its peak. When a divorce from his wife was finalized last summer, the settlement stated Sky Lucas made $17 million in compensation in 2010 but testimony showed he had the earning potential of $50 million a year depending on how the fund fared.

Vicis Capital lost 22 percent of its value in 2009 when investors wanted out during the failing economy, according to InstitutionalInvestor.com. The hedge fund was also hurt by an FBI investigation that led to one executive being sentenced to two years' probation for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Another news item gives a window into Lucas' lifestyle. In 2006 he paid $165,010 for the Boston Red Sox lineup card from the final game of the 2004 World Series. It was the most ever paid at a Major League Baseball auction, Fortune magazine reported.

Lucas could not be reached for comment.

The Steiners, $53,391

Nelson and Lynne Steiner owe $53,391 on a 15,229-square-foot home in Tierra Verde. They bought the waterfront property for $670,000 in 2001 and completed building the sprawling home at 1873 Oceanview Drive in 2004.

Nelson Steiner's company, Steiner Communities, owns manufactured housing communities throughout Florida's west coast. Since 1970, 70-year-old Steiner has owned or managed as many as 45 communities, according to a 2010 statement put out by his company referring to him as a "manufacturing housing baron."

While many of Steiner's developments provide low- to moderate- priced housing for thousands of Floridians, he hasn't always been popular with residents of his communities.

When Steiner sold the Sunnydale Mobile Home park on S Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa in 2000 many of the 200 residents were elderly and disabled. Some bought homes from him months before he sold the park and ordered them out. Their struggle was documented for months by the media and prompted new legislation protecting mobile home residents and setting up a fund to help finance the cost of moving when they are forced out of a park or community.

The Steiners could not be reached for comment.

Catching up

A fourth person on the list, Cheryl Mercuris, president of 400-employee Quality Resources telemarketing company in Clearwater, paid a total of $94,000 for the delinquent property taxes hours after her company received a call from the Tampa Bay Times. She had not paid 2011 or 2012 property taxes on her 10,000-square-foot Dunedin home.

Mercuris, who lives most of the time in New York, said she wasn't aware she was delinquent because an accountant at Quality Resources was in charge of paying such bills.

"I couldn't believe it. I've never paid a bill late in my life," she said. "I fired an accountant because he wasn't doing his job. The minute we found out I was very upset. We've never paid a vendor late, it is very, very important for us to pay our bills on time."

Mercuris was in the news three years ago when the New York Post reported she spent $500,000 on a two-week rental at a 31,000-square-foot estate in the Hamptons. The tabloid quoted Mercuris saying the potential for dating a career-oriented man was much better there than on Florida's west coast.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or [email protected]

 
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