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Tampa couple sues Davis Islands home owners, neighbors after racially charged home-buying dispute

A couple of Indian descent trying to buy this house in Davis Islands in Tampa say they pulled out of the sale after a hostile encounter.
Published Jan. 14, 2017

TAMPA — Contracts had been signed, money had been paid, and the family was ready to finalize a $658,000 purchase of a home in Tampa's affluent Davis Islands neighborhood.

They arrived the morning of Nov. 3 for a final look at the property at 632 Luzon Ave. The women wore traditional Indian sari garb. The Asgars are of Indian descent.

Two neighbors noticed. And that's when the sale soured.

A lawsuit filed recently in Hillsborough Circuit Court alleges neighbors loudly objected to Kaderbhai and Sehera Ali Asgar buying the home. One man uttered racial slurs, according to a civil complaint. He threatened to break the home's windows and set it ablaze.

Police were called, though no official report was taken. But it was enough for the Asgars, who said their daughter was in tears after the ordeal, to cancel the sale.

Now, they are demanding a return of their deposit of $30,000 from the home's owners, Herb and Jan Donica, plus damages from neighbors Debra Olson and David Howard for "infliction of emotional distress."

During the incident, the real estate agent, Jeanne Wolfe, called 911, the complaint stated.

Tampa police records reflect that officers were sent to the home that day. But a record of the call indicates that the agent could not explain specifically what happened or what was said.

Wolfe alleged a neighbor was shouting racial slurs and suggested a hate crime had been committed, according to police records.

The civil complaint states that Olson, who lives across the street, burst through the home's front door and yelled that the Asgars would be bad for the neighborhood. She then left and went to Howard's home down the street, according to the complaint.

Howard then came to the yard and engaged in a "profanity-laced tirade" against the Asgars, the Donicas, and their real estate agent, the complaint stated. He said that "those people" would not be moving into the home.

"You lied!" he said to Herb Donica, according to the complaint. "I will break all your … windows and I will burn your … house down!"

Officers were again called to the home the next day, where another real estate agent complained that a real estate sign had been knocked over, according to police records. The agent suspected one of the neighbors had toppled it.

Police noted no permanent damage to the sign. No formal police report was written after either incident.

Neither Olson nor Howard responded to repeated requests for comments Wednesday and Thursday.

The lawsuit seeks a return of the money and damages for infliction of emotional distress.

It alleges fraud, claiming the Donicas knew their neighbors would be hostile to the sale but did not disclose that during the buying process. The Donicas' attorney, Richard McIntyre, said that is the only portion of the complaint with which they disagree.

"The Donicas agree with the recitation of the facts that occurred on that day," he said. "There's no exaggeration."

He declined further comment.

The Donicas are both attorneys. Herb Donica is known for chairing the committee that supports Toys for Tots in Hillsborough County.

Court records show the Donicas applied Nov. 4 for an injunction for protection against Howard, citing "repeat violence." A judge declined their request. Property records show they still own the home on Luzon Avenue.

The Asgars could not be reached.

Kaderbhai Ali Asgar and his wife run an engineering firm, A-1 Engineering & Consultants, out of their current home, which is elsewhere on Davis Islands, according to state business records. They also previously managed a chain of stores specializing in healthy frozen desserts.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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