Las Vegas shooter used real estate investments to fund gambling, guns

By Reuters/Jonathan Allen, Joseph Ax   October 8, 2017 | 07:10 pm PT
Paddock's lucrative real estate ventures allowed him to buy tens of thousands of dollars' worth of rifles and bullets.

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 $8.4 million, 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 $5 million to $6 million 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 on 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 U.S. 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 Las Vegas video poker machines, which are programmed to favor 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 said.

Big deal for a little guy

He parlayed his way to the Mesquite deal from 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 said in text messages to Reuters, dismissing online speculation 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 Los Angeles. He would also buy a stake in a tract in Henderson, on the edge of Las Vegas's fast-growing sprawl, that remains undeveloped to this day.

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 $3.2 million.

Those sales lead to what appears to be his biggest deal, per public records: his purchase of the Central Park Apartments in Mesquite, paid for with a mortgage of $3.5 million and $4.9 million largely in proceeds from the California property.

Thomas Warren, another broker in the 2004 sale, recalled Paddock as unkempt in appearance. "But again, that's not all that disimilar from the bunches and bunches of folks coming from California with money," Warren said in a telephone interview, adding that he became accustomed to wealthy West Coast buyers showing up in shorts and flip-flops.

"I remember him as being odd," Warren said. "He wasn't an engaging person." But nor was Paddock the oddest or scruffiest buyer who ever showed up in Dallas, Warren said.

Not only did Paddock buy the complex, he ran it as the manager and lived onsite 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, describing how they gutted and renovated a 20-unit building in Los Angeles largely themselves. Caring little about appearances, they bought cheap clothes from Walmart.

Stephen Paddock sold the complex in November 2012, for $9.45 million: $1 million 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 wrote in a text message. "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.

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