Feds seek to seize apartments on South End’s edge over alleged drug activity

Brookhill Village at South Tryon Street and Remount Road
Brookhill Village at South Tryon Street and Remount Road

The federal government has filed a complaint to begin the process of seizing the Brookhill Village apartments on South Tryon Street, due to allegations of repeated drug activity.

The complaint, filed last month in federal court in Charlotte, details dozens of instances of marijuana, heroin, ecstasy and crack cocaine being sold from the rental community at South Tryon and Remount Road since 2011, along with the recovery of several guns, a shooting and a robbery. Federal law allows the government to seize property used in drug sales.

Brookhill Village is a community of more than 100 single-story, wood-sided buildings spread over 36 acres. It’s a community that hasn’t been touched by the ongoing gentrification and construction of more than 1,200 new, upscale apartments underway blocks away in booming South End.

Privately owned, Brookhill Village was first developed in 1951. The ownership structure is complicated: A company affiliated with prominent Charlottean C.D. Spangler, with a Forbes-estimated net worth of $3.3 billion, owns the land. A separate company, Brookhill Village Two, owns the buildings on the site through a long-term ground lease. Brookhill Village Two is managed by Greg Pappanastos, a real estate investor and developer who heads Argos Realty.

Pappanastos said he couldn’t comment on the ongoing legal action. A representative of Brookhill Land, the Spangler-affiliated company, couldn’t immediately be reached by phone Tuesday. In June, Pappanastos said a portion of the site was being considered for redevelopment and could be demolished.

Although many of the buildings in Brookhill Village are run-down, with boarded-up windows, black heating oil tanks and sagging gutters, the development is also an island of affordability. A two-bedroom unit rents for $347 a month, a resident said in March.

But according to the federal complaint, the property is also frequently used to buy and sell drugs.

Here are some of the allegations in the federal complaint:

▪ In March 2011, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers found 30.7 grams of marijuana packaged for sale in five-dollar baggies when they executed a search warrant on Village Court, in Brookhill Village. “An occupant of the apartment admitted during the search that he often sold marijuana to make extra money,” the complaint says.

▪ In November 2012, CMPD officers found 20 crack rocks, a scale, $3,138 in cash, five handguns and a shotgun when executing a search warrant on Brookhill Road. In July 2013, CMPD executed another search warrant on the same apartment and found three firearms, a digital scale with cocaine residue and ammunition.

▪ In December 2015, during a search on Brookhill Road, CMPD officers found 150 grams of marijuana, two grams of heroin, two grams of cocaine and $5,392 in cash.

▪ On Aug. 19, three men forced their way into an apartment on Remus Road and robbed the occupants at gunpoint. Officers believe the robbery was related to drug dealing. On Aug. 22, someone fired a dozen 9 mm rounds into the same apartment, hitting and injuring one of the occupants. The shooting is also believed to be related to drug dealing.

The complaint says CMPD has notified the owners “several times of the violations” and made suggestions for reducing crime at Brookhill Village, along with warning them that failure to do so could lead to property forfeiture. Police have sent 53 certified letters to the owners and met with their representatives in person, the complaint says.

“The owners of the defendant properties have failed to act reasonably and failed to take reasonable and available measures to reduce crime,” the complaint says. The defendants have not filed a response to the complaint, the next step in the case. Federal attorneys could then attempt to negotiate a solution or proceed with the forfeiture.

It’s not the first time this year the federal government has sought to seize real estate allegedly used for crimes. In August, the federal government oversaw the sale of a Red Roof Inn near the airport that prosecutors said harbored teen sex trafficking to a new owner who agreed to invest in the property and clean it up.

Researcher Maria David contributed.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo