Gam­bling and prop­erty spec­u­la­tion paid gun­man’s bills

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Worldwide -

Jonathan Allen in Las Ve­gas TO the Texas bro­kers who met him in 2004, Stephen Pad­dock was an un­re­mark­able man look­ing to buy an un­re­mark­able prop­erty near Dal­las, hardly dis­tin­guish­able from other ca­su­ally dressed Cal­i­for­ni­ans who flocked to the area to make in­vest­ments.

Af­ter tour­ing the 111-unit apart­ment com­plex in Mesquite, Texas, with the bro­kers, Pad­dock bought it for $8.4m, partly with the pro­ceeds from sell­ing some smaller prop­er­ties in Los Angeles. When he sold Cen­tral Park Apart­ments a decade later, he had likely made $5m to $6m in prof­its, ac­cord­ing to fi­nan­cial records re­viewed by Reuters.

Pad­dock’s lu­cra­tive real es­tate ven­tures, which helped un­der­write his high-stakes gam­bling, may have also al­lowed him to buy tens of thou­sands of dol­lars’ worth of ri­fles and bul­lets in ad­vance of his at­tack in Las Ve­gas last Sun­day.

A com­plete pic­ture of his fi­nances is still be­ing as­sem­bled by in­ves­ti­ga­tors who are try­ing to fathom what drove an ap­par­ently wealthy re­tiree to haul 23 guns up to a ho­tel suite before com­menc­ing one of the dead­li­est shoot­ings in US his­tory.

“He was kind of a scruffy dude,” said Jim Hearn, a bro­ker who re­called show­ing Pad­dock around the com­plex of small, mid­dle-class apart­ments in early 2004. “Didn’t look like he had two nick­els to rub to­gether, but he had a few mil­lion bucks in an ex­change ac­count, which was clearly real, and he did his due dili­gence and closed the deal.”

That pur­chase ap­peared to be among Pad­dock’s most prof­itable in­vest­ments, which in­cluded nu­mer­ous smaller real es­tate deals in the Los Angeles area.

The rent from the 111 apart­ments in the com­plex gave him more than $500,000 in net in­come af­ter ex­penses in 2011, for ex­am­ple, a sales brochure pre­pared for po­ten­tial buy­ers showed.

He would feed some of that money into video poker ma­chines, which are pro­grammed to favour the house. The ex­tent to which Pad­dock may have prof­ited from his casino gam­bling was not clear. Still, Pad­dock was con­sid­ered a high-value player, and casi­nos re­warded his gam­bling with perks that in­cluded free trips, rooms, meals and other lux­u­ries, his brother Eric said.

He worked his way up to the Mesquite deal start­ing with an ini­tial in­vest­ment with Eric in a du­plex rental unit in North Hol­ly­wood, Los Angeles, some 20 years ear­lier.

They saved up at their day jobs for the ini­tial down­pay­ment, Eric Pad­dock told jour­nal­ists, dis­miss­ing on­line spec­u­la­tion that their fa­ther, a con­victed vi­o­lent bank rob­ber with whom they had lit­tle con­tact, stashed loot away for his fam­ily.

Los Angeles county records show Eric Pad­dock bought a North Hol­ly­wood build­ing in 1986 for $407,500.

In the years that fol­lowed, Stephen Pad­dock bought at least five other prop­er­ties in LA. In early 2004, he sold or trans­ferred at least three rental units in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles In­ter­na­tional Air­port, ac­cord­ing to county records. At least one of those prop­er­ties had more than dou­bled in value since he bought it in 1992, sell­ing for $3.2m.

Those sales lead to what seems his big­gest deal — his pur­chase of the Cen­tral Park Apart­ments in Mesquite, paid for with a mort­gage of $3.5m and $4.9m largely in pro­ceeds from the Cal­i­for­nia prop­erty.

Thomas War­ren, an­other bro­ker in the 2004 sale, re­called Pad­dock as un­kempt. “But again, that’s not all that dis­sim­i­lar from the bunches and bunches of folks com­ing from Cal­i­for­nia with money,” War­ren said, adding that he grew used to wealthy West Coast buy­ers show­ing up in shorts and flip-flops.

Not only did Pad­dock buy the com­plex, he ran it as the man­ager and lived on-site as a way of hold­ing ex­penses down, ap­par­ently keep­ing his own books on a Mi­crosoft Ex­cel spread­sheet rather than pay an ac­coun­tant.

His brother said the pair had been thrifty from the start. Car­ing lit­tle about ap­pear­ances, they bought cheap clothes from Wal­mart.

Stephen Pad­dock sold the com­plex in Novem­ber 2012, for $9.45m : $1m more than he paid. His for­mer wife, Peggy Pad­dock, and his brother Eric were part­ners in the ven­ture, al­though the brother de­clined to say what share of the pro­ceeds they took.

“We made enough money to do what we wanted to do in the rest of our lives,” Eric Pad­dock said. “We all re­tired.”

A few years later, per the po­lice ac­count, Stephen Pad­dock be­gan amass­ing much of the arse­nal he would need for Man­dalay Bay. His spend on guns and am­mu­ni­tion would have been in the re­gion of $50,000 — and for that he amassed more fire­power than a in­fantry squad.

Pad­dock had 23 firearms in the ho­tel suite, rang­ing from .223 to .308 cal­i­bre — 17 were ri­fles and 12 of those car­ried bump stocks to sim­u­late full-au­to­matic fire. Pho­tos from the ho­tel room show some of his weapons fit­ted with op­ti­cal sights, which would en­hance ac­cu­racy.

Pad­dock pur­chased 33 firearms in the year before the at­tack. While gun-sell­ers must send no­tice of mul­ti­ple hand­gun pur­chases to the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Firearms, there’s no such re­quire­ment for long guns.

His arse­nal in­cluded tracer rounds that can im­prove a shooter’s ac­cu­racy in the dark. It wasn’t clear whether Pad­dock fired any of this am­mu­ni­tion dur­ing the mas­sacre.

Pad­dock bought 1,000 rounds of .308-cal­i­bre and .223-cal­i­bre tracer am­mu­ni­tion from a pri­vate buyer he met at a Phoenix gun show, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said.

Tracer rounds il­lu­mi­nate their path so a gun­man can home in on tar­gets at night. But they can also give away the shooter’s po­si­tion.

The blood­shed might have lasted longer, with greater loss of life, but for a ho­tel se­cu­rity of­fi­cer who was sent to check an open-door alarm on the 32nd floor, and dis­cov­ered the gun­man’s where­abouts af­ter the shoot­ing started.

The se­cu­rity of­fi­cer, Je­sus Cam­pos, was struck in the leg as the gun­man strafed the hall­way with gun­fire from be­hind his door, ap­par­ently hav­ing de­tected Cam­pos via sur­veil­lance cam­eras Pad­dock set up out­side his ho­tel suite.

Cam­pos, though wounded, alerted the ho­tel’s dispatch.

In a new dis­clo­sure, au­thor­i­ties said two rounds fired by Pad­dock hit a large jet fuel stor­age tank at the edge of Las Ve­gas air­port, about a block from the con­cert grounds.

Air­port au­thor­i­ties de­clined to spec­u­late on whether the gun­man was aim­ing to hit the cylin­dri­cal 43,000-bar­rel fuel tank or whether the ves­sel was struck by two stray rounds in the midst of the shoot­ing spree.

There was no ex­plo­sion or fire, as jet fuel in stor­age is al­most im­pos­si­ble to ig­nite with gun­shots.

SNIPER’S NEST: Some of the guns used by Pad­dock

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