San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has admonished WB Coyle, a prominent real estate broker from district.
“The WB Coyles of the world are not only not welcome in my district, or in San Francisco, but ought to be fully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Chiu.
The president of the city’s Board of Supervisors made the statement after receiving complaints against Coyle and reviewing a May 2013 investigation by NBC Bay Area where several of Coyle’s investors exposed what they called questionable real estate strategies and accused him of walking off with millions of dollars they invested in his real estate holdings.
Since the report, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a new law that is designed to protect tenants from wrongful terminations and essentially blocks complex investment strategies like the one Coyle used to attract his investors.
“We want to make sure that the bad actors like the WB Coyles, that we’re not creating incentives in the real estate market for these types of businessmen to operate in the shadows of the law,” said Chiu, who added, “This appears to be white-collar crime.”
Coyle owns Telegraph Hill Properties and a variety of other LLC’s connected to property primarily in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. Some of his investors have filed more than 20 lawsuits accusing Coyle of spearheading a complicated investment strategy where he recruited investors, purchased apartment buildings, evicted tenants, remodeled the former apartments and sold them as condominiums.
The lawsuits involve more than $15 million and span nearly a decade. Some of Coyle’s investors say, in many cases, he sold the properties without their knowledge. They accuse Coyle of manipulating the investments in his favor to increase his profit and their losses.
Ralph VonderHaar, one of Coyle’s investors, talked with NBC Bay Area.
“It’s shocking somebody who has lived in North Beach for so long would terrorize his neighbors,” said VonderHaar. "You just don’t see that.”
VonderHaar has accused Coyle of embezzling more than $200,000 from his investment group.
Another investor, Barbara Thompson said, “He enjoys causing distress with other people. He actually takes pleasure in it.”
A third investor, John Sollner, added, “All of us have gotten suckered.”
All three investors lost significant amounts of money investing in Coyle’s real estate opportunities, according to legal filings. Nearly a dozen of Coyle’s investors reached out the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit after their complaints against their investment partner went without any action.
After learning of the NBC Bay Area investigation, the California Bureau of Real Estate conducted its own investigation and filed a five-part accusation against Telegraph Hill Properties and Coyle. The accusation states Coyle committed fraud or dishonest dealing, misrepresentation, failing to provide records, commingling funds and taking secret commissions.
Issues with the San Francisco real estate broker have also drawn criticism from tentant advocates in the city.
“He’s among the worst in San Francisco over the years,” said San Francisco Tenants Union Director Ted Gullicksen in reference to Coyle. “Most of the buildings had seniors in them and disabled tenants. So, he’s a bad actor.”
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has made several attempts to talk with Coyle. After confirming he was inside his North Beach office, Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski knocked on Coyle’s door and called him through the outdoor intercom. Both attempts were ignored.
Earlier in the year, after an arbitration hearing in Walnut Creek, Coyle spotted an NBC Bay Area TV Camera and ran away to a car a few blocks from the arbitration hearing. He avoided questions about his real estate dealings. In legal filings with arbitrators conducting a hearing on his investor’s complaints, Coyle has said he has done nothing wrong.
A hearing is currently scheduled for later this year with the California Bureau of Real Estate to address the accusations it has levied against Coyle. The state has said, based on the evidence it has gathered, it will attempt to revoke Coyle’s license.
Investors have filed complaints with the San Francisco District Attorney, the FBI, the San Francisco Police Department, and after getting little or no action, they contacted the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit to share their concerns.
“I think the wheels are turning in the right direction to bring him to justice,” said Chiu.