The federal government Tuesday couldn't unload a Westside storefront that once belonged to a religious sect led by convicted child molester Dwight "Malachi" York.
No one came close to meeting the minimum bid of $530,000 as the U.S. Marshals Service tried to auction off the West Broad Street building once owned by the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
Auctions usually are held on the steps of the Clarke County Courthouse, but rain forced about 20 people to cram into the courthouse to vie for the property at the corner of West Broad and South Church streets - a 6,360-square-foot, faux-Moorish building that sports Egyptian-themed paintings.
The government seized the building last year to help pay $566,000 in victim restitution that a federal judge ordered in 2004 as he sentenced York to 135 years in prison.
Only two men bid for the property Tuesday.
The opener offered $90,000.
Atlanta attorney James Hugh Potts II raised the stakes for the ramshackle building to $100,000 and eventually offered the high bid of $150,000, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Bernard Snell said authorities likely will reject the offer.
"We're probably going to re-appraise it," Snell said. "If the value goes down, we'll go from there."
Still, officials will consider Potts' offer through the end of the week.
"I really think I bought the building today," Potts said. "If I have to negotiate some more with the government, I'll be happy to do that."
Federal prosecutors said York used the sect as a front for a criminal enterprise that laundered money and recruited underage girls for sex. A U.S. District Court jury convicted York of 11 counts of child molestation, racketeering, money laundering and other charges after a trial in 2004.
The government already auctioned off other Nuwaubian properties that were seized under federal criminal asset forfeiture laws, including a nine-bedroom, 8,300-square-foot mansion off Timothy Road.
York bought the commercial property at 815 W. Broad St. in 2000 for $385,000. First he proposed a lodge, then licensed a bookstore that never opened.
A Nuwaubian store at an Atlanta Highway strip mall, "All Eyes on Egypt," closed in 2003.
Potts, who owns a building that houses Luna Baking Corp. near the former Nuwaubian bookstore, hopes to renovate the building into commercial space he can sell to local business people.
"I know that (York) is a bad guy who did terrible things to children, and maybe if we change things for the better, people won't have to drive by (the building) and think about what he did," Potts said.
Potts inspected the building after the auction.
Except for the markings on the outside, the building shows no signs that the Nuwaubians owned it, he said. Inside, Potts found a desk, a fiberglass shower stall and trash. Rain was pouring in through the ceiling.
"It's in very rough shape," Potts said.