A landlord known as the “Slumlord Millionaire” as owner of over 300 properties in parts of Port Richmond and Kensington pled guilty in an Oct.1 hearing to loan fraud charges.
Robert Coyle, Sr., 67, of Glassboro, N.J., was charged in March with lying about the details of the properties he put up as collateral for two loans totaling about $10 million. Coyle, who at one point owned as many as 450 properties in Philadelphia, operated one real estate business out of offices in Port Richmond, at Allegheny and Aramingo avenues.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Pennsylvania, in 2007 Coyle borrowed over $3 million from East River Bank and over $6.6 million from Republic First Bank, purportedly to refinance existing loans, repair his properties, and purchase new properties. He put up about 200 properties as collateral for these loans.
“This case has nothing to do with his tenant relationships,” said Coyle’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Miller. “The [Republic First] bank was banging down his door for this loan. He wasn’t even interested in this loan. They came to him and begged him to do this loan, because what they wanted to do was masquerade that their financial situation was improving.”
However, according to prosecutors, Coyle did not hold good title for all of the properties at the time he used them as collateral, and submitted forged leases and letters to tenants to the bank. They also said he inflated rents on some of the properties in his loan paperwork, and listed some vacant properties as occupied.
But Miller stated that “the crux of the criminal case,” the boxes of leases and rent rolls that Coyle provided to the banks which allegedly included some falsifications, were not picked up until two days before the loan settlement was finalized, and Miller suspects were not even examined by the lending institutions.
Coyle was dubbed the “Slumlord Millionaire” by Philadelphia Daily News after a 2009 investigation of properties he owned found several of his properties to be in an advanced state of disrepair, with leaky roofs, mold, open sewage, no heat and broken windows. Coyle allegedly fled the city and padlocked his offices after defaulting on the loans and essentially left the houses throughout Kensington and Port Richmond to rot.
According to Miller, Coyle defaulted because First Republic Bank did not hold true to guarantees they had made regarding the loan. Miller said they it was only the bank’s offer to cover his title insurance payments – about $25,000 monthly – that made Coyle think he could afford the loans. Instead, the bank skipped most months and never paid more than $6,000 in a month, Miller said.
Coyle kept up on the loan payments for 14 months before defaulting, Miller said. The total loss to the banks is about $2.2 million, Miller estimated.
“They had all these bad loans they wanted to get rid of, and they had Coyle absorb this,” Miller said. “He has no criminal record. He’s a blue collar worker. He was a bus driver, then a truck driver. At one point he sold pizza and water ice out of an old truck he bought.”
However, Coyle is deeply unpopular in the neighborhood. Miller objected to the designation of his client as a “slumlord.”
“I’m not big into name calling,” he said. “If you own 400 properties in Philly’s lower socio-economic areas, you’re going to have some people that are going to hate you and some are going to love you.”
Residents who were affected by the negative conditions surrounding the properties Coyle allegedly abandoned are already planning to pack the courtroom at Coyle’s sentencing on January 4 in favor of a harsh sentence.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.