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The State of NoVa
Posted at 01:32 PM ET, 04/24/2012

Manassas post office building remains in limbo


The post office in Old Town Manassas has been seized by federal marshalls because the property's owner, Linda Sadr, is in jail after conviction in a mortgage fraud ponzi scheme. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The Manassas city post office building may be worth more in sentiment than in dollars, but the U.S. Marshals Service thinks it’s definitely worth more than what it fetched at auction recently.

The stately brick building on Church Street has been home to the Old Town post office since the 1930s, and it’s a place that gives easy access to downtown businesses and where old friends run into each other.

But the building became unwittingly involved in a mortgage Ponzi scheme when Linda Sadr bought the property in 2006 from the city. When she was convicted last June of running a scheme in which she made false promises to help homeowners having mortgage troubles, the building that houses the post office was seized by U.S. marshals as a part of her assets.

The agency recently put the building on the auction block and fetched $385,000. Miguel Peres and Chris Salisbury, who bought the building together, said they were excited — Pires, a Manassas native and now Old Town restaurant owner, said he had long eyed the brick building with long windows as something he might own someday. Pires owns Carmello’s in Old Town and Salisbury owns two construction-related businesses.

The value of the property has been listed in recent years between $700,000 and $750,000, Pires said.

The U.S. marshals, though, had other plans — they rejected the bid this week and are looking for a higher price, said a marshals spokeswoman.

“To get the call from them saying they’re not sure they’re going to approve was a huge disappointment,” Pires said.

The deed stipulates that the space for the post office must stay with that agency and that the city has the right to buy the property first. Manassas officials have said they might do so if they feel the post office is threatened.

The city, however, has waived its right to buy the building first, Pires said, and the U.S. marshals are the remaining hurdle.

Lynzey Donahue, a U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman, said the proceeds of the sale go toward paying back victims of Sadr’s crime. A low price “is not doing any favors to the victims,” she said.

Authorities have a lot of leeway to negotiate in this situation, she said, and plan to take their time. “They’re not in a huge rush, they want to do the best they can for the sale price.”

Pires and Salisbury are communicating with the agency through the auction house and say they haven’t been quoted a specific price they need to pay. Donahue declined to say what price a bidder would need to pay to win the building.

“When I saw it go to auction, it was just too good to be true,” Pires said. “Now we have to wait and see.”

By  |  01:32 PM ET, 04/24/2012

 
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