The Japanese-style McLean house of fugitive Frank E. Terpil, a former CIA agent, went on the auction block yesterday and, after 12 minutes of heated bidding, sold for $485,000 -- almost three times the amount federal authorities said they expected the property to bring.
"I've been house hunting and liked the looks of the house," said the winning bidder, Vincent A. Sheehy, owner of a Marlow Heights Ford automobile dealership. "But this is what you had to go through to get it."
Federal authorities who conducted the sale on the steps of the Fairfax County Courthouse said they expected the house to sell for slightly more than their minimum asking price of $131,000, the total of unpaid local, state and federal taxes on the estate at 1102 Chain Bridge Rd. A federal judge ordered the house sold to help pay the taxes owed by Terpil, who was indicted as a coconspirator with convicted Edwin Wilson, another former CIA agent, on charges of running guns and explosives to Libya.
About 60 bidders and onlookers gathered in the shadow of Fairfax's glass-and-concrete courthouse in the midday heat yesterday as Deputy U.S. Marshal William R. Scism opened the bidding at $131,000.
As the price edged toward $300,000, most of the 12 bidders dropped out of the race and left the battle to Fred Lilly and Norris Mitchell. The bid war bounced between the two men.
When the price hit $415,000 with a bid by Lilly, the auctioneer's voice intoned "$415,000, going once, going twice . . . . "
Enter Sheehy at $420,000.
At $445,000, Lilly, sweating profused, sat on the courthouse steps and muttered: "I'm out."
Sheehy stopped the bidding with his offer of $485,000 and handed the auctioneer two certified checks totaling $60,000 to cover the required 10 percent down payment. He will be required to provide the remaining $425,000 in cash within 14 days.
Even at that price, Sheehy said he estimates it will be almost a year before the house will be ready for occupancy because of the severe vandalism that occurred after Terpil moved out.
Terpil fled the United States more than two years ago about the time of his indictment on multiple charges, including murder conspiracy against a former Libyan government official. He reportedly was last seen in Beirut in November.
Once local, state and federal governments claim their $131,000 in taxes, the remaining $354,000 will be held by the federal government, according to Scism.
"We certainly didn't think the bidding would go that high," said Justice Department attorney Michael Kearns, who monitored the sale.