Operator of Ill-Fated Warehouse Conversion Has Criminal History: Records

Derick Ion Almena, the founder of the artists collective that was the scene of deadly fire, is on probation for receiving stolen property

The man who founded and ran the artists' collective at the Ghost Ship warehouse where dozens of people died in a massive fire is is currently on probabion in connection with a stolen property case, according to Alameda County court records.

Derick Ion Almena, 46, who friends knew as Derick Ion, was convicted in January of receiving stolen property, specifically an Airstream trailer from his landlord in January 2015, court records show. He spent two days in jail then, plead no contest to a misdemeanor, and is currently on probation until 2019.

Almena survived the fire and posted to Facebook after hearing that the converted warehouse he managed was the site of a deadly fire. The post, which has since been deleted, got a lot of attention because of its insensitivity to what was already known to be a fatal scene.

The post read as follows: "Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound ... it's as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope ... to be standing now in poverty of self worth."

The post prompted more than 2,000 comments, and many of them were critical of Almena's message. The commenters said he showed more concern for his material possessions than the people who were killed in the blaze.

Danielle Boudreaux said she became fast friends with Almena and his wife Micah Allison when they met eight years ago before a falling out about a year ago over conditions at the warehouse.

Access to the second floor, where there was a room for concerts and a home for the couple and their children, was a rickety, homemade staircase, she said.

"Calling it a staircase gives you the idea that it was a set of stairs. It was not," Boudreaux said. "It was random pieces of wood put together to create something that you could get up to the top floor on. But it was not what most people would consider a staircase. It was like a jimmy-rigged makeshift staircase. As soon as you stepped on it, it wobbled all over the place."

Other former tenants have said there were constant problems with the power and hot water. One, Shelly Mack, described "all kinds of electrical cords running through there illegally." She called it a "death trap."

According to a report in the Daily Mail on Sunday, Almena checked into the Marriott City Center hotel in Oakland, but the hotel had not confirmed that.

NBC Bay Area reached out to Almena for comment but did not hear back Sunday. On Monday, NBC News received a statement from him. It read: "In my previous Facebook post, I had no idea there was a loss of life. This tragic event consumes me every moment. My heart is broken. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones."

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Almena's past criminal history. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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