Along the multibillion-dollar trail of wealth allegedly blazed by deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and his associates, a $650,000 house on Overlook Lane in Northwest Washington may rate little more than a detour.
But the ample, brick building with an indoor pool and a stone and wood facade has put the names of some prominent Washingtonians in the paper trail of Marcos-related holdings, although they did not know it would.
The house was purchased in 1976 by Alfredo T. Romualdez, brother of Imelda Marcos and a former military attache at the Philippine Embassy here, for $190,000 in cash, according to real estate records. The seller was Arch N. Booth, former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It was sold last year to its current resident, State Department legal adviser Abraham D. Sofaer, by an offshore company tied to Romualdez and the Marcos government.
Sofaer said through a friend that the Romualdez connection was a "total and complete coincidence" and that he did know until asked about it that Romualdez had owned the house. Sofaer paid $650,000 in cash for the house last July, according to property records, and financed it through family holdings, a friend said. The friend said Sofaer, formerly a federal judge in New York, found the house through a real estate agent.
"The Sofaers had no clue who owned the house, and neither did I," said the agent, who asked not to be identified. "I just assumed it was someone rich . . . . who had an attorney taking care of everything."
"It showed beautifully because it was beautifully furnished," said the agent, adding that the house was decorated with expensive items from around the world.
The house was officially owned at the time by an offshore holding company, listed in D.C. property records as Aruba Resources Investment NV, a Netherlands Antilles firm tied to the Marcos government. Romualdez transferred the house to Aruba Resources in 1979, for a cash payment of $225,000, real estate records show.
According to the Aruba Chamber of Commerce, the firm's directors are Nicanor Romualdez, whose relationship to Alfredo could not immediately be determined, and Zopico Tolete, trade attache at the Philippine Embassy here until 1982. Calls to the firm's Washington and Aruba offices were not answered.
When the house was officially transferred to Sofaer last summer, a Washington law firm represented Aruba Resources, so Sofaer never met the owners, the agent said.
Romualdez built an indoor pool behind the house and encircled the back yard with a red brick wall, according to neighbors. Aruba asked $750,000 for the house, but settled for $650,000 after an independent appraisal, the agent said.
"This is one deal where the Marcos family didn't make a killing," the agent added.