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'Landlords from hell' accept prison terms for terrorizing tenants

Crime, Law and JusticeRental ServiceCrimeJustice SystemTheft

SAN FRANCISCO -- A software engineer and his real estate agent wife who terrorized their tenants in a twisted attempt to force them to move are back after fleeing to Italy, and each has accepted a four-year prison sentence and two strikes rather than face trial, Dist. Atty. George Gascon announced Wednesday.

Nicknamed the "landlords from hell," Kip and Nicole Macy employed tactics "so outlandish and brazen" in attempting to clear their building of renters that "it sounds like the plot of a horror movie," Gascon said.

They each pleaded guilty to two felony counts of residential burglary, one felony count of stalking and one felony count of attempted grand theft. In custody on $2-million bail apiece, they are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22.

Kip Macy’s attorney, Lisa DewBerry, said the couple could have faced a maximum of 16 years in prison if tried on all charges.

Gascon, she said, "knew he could not prove everything so he settled for one quarter of the time that he charged."

Her client, she said is "really a good guy" but was at such a disadvantage due to San Francisco laws protective of tenants that "he felt he was backed into a corner."

In 2005 Kip, 38, and Nicole, 37, set in motion an "insane," nearly two-year campaign against their tenants that "destroyed his career" and derailed their lives, Gascon said.

Flanked by the assistant D.A. who worked the case, Northern California’s top U.S. marshal and the special agent for the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service who helped apprehend the couple in Milan, Gascon described bizarre acts that he said rivaled those of the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.

The Macys had purchased the building in San Francisco’s up-and-coming South of Market district in 2005 and sought to boot its five occupants so they could renovate and sell the individual units, authorities said.

After a failed effort to evict the first tenant, Scott Morrow, the couple on two occasions sawed holes in his floor. Gascon recounted the tenant’s shock as he and a friend saw a saw blade emerge through the floorboards, then grabbed a hammer and smashed it.

Nicole Macy also ordered workers to sever weight-bearing joists above the building’s basement -- after consulting with a building inspector on the optimal way to destabilize it -- in an attempt to have the structure red-tagged as uninhabitable, an indictment said. In addition, the couple cut off gas, power and water to the units on several occasions.

A month before her husband cut through Morrow's floor, according to authorities, Nicole Macy created an email account in Morrow’s name and sent a message to his attorney, firing him. Another email that she sent in Morrow's name to her own attorney said: "One day you are going to come home to the Victorian house ... and find [your three children] missing. Then each day a package will arrive with a piece of them."

Prosecutors say the Macys also lashed out at three tenants who shared a unit in the Clementina Street building, gluing their locks, dousing their belongings in ammonia and stealing jewelry and cash. The fifth victim was a building manager whom the Macys turned on, "threatening him with a handgun," Gascon said.

The couple was first charged in 2008 and the following year a grand jury handed down an indictment. They eventually were released on bail and disappeared shortly before a June 2010 court hearing.

While their passports had been confiscated, Nicole Macy managed to get a new one under her maiden name, saying she had misplaced hers, Assistant Dist. Atty. Kelly Burke said. Kip Macy also secured a new passport, but Burke did not know how.

Italian authorities detained the couple in 2011, fingerprinted them and "confirmed their identities." They were taken into custody again in Milan in May 2012 and spent a year in jail as they fought extradition.

U.S. marshals escorted them to San Francisco last month.

Even in this city's overheated housing market where evictions are on the rise, Gascon said the Macys' methods were over-the-top.

"We've had other landlord-tenant cases, but nothing to the level of what we've seen here," he said.

Under the plea deal, the Macys, who no longer own the property, must pay restitution to victims, he added.

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Twitter @leeromney

lee.romney@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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