Farm, condo formerly owned by fen-phen attorney Cunningham are sold at auction

auction proceeds go to fen-phen victims

gkocher1@herald-leader.comApril 30, 2011 

GEORGETOWN — A 160-acre farm once owned by Lexington attorney Shirley Cunningham Jr. was sold at auction Friday for $1.585 million to Central Kentucky farmer Jim Dwyer.

In addition, a Lexington condominium that Cunningham previously owned was sold at the same auction for $159,000 to a woman who declined to give her name. Auctioneers handling the sale also would not give her name, saying she did not wish to be identified.

The properties were sold by order of a U.S. District Court judge in September.

Cunningham was sentenced in 2009 to 20 years in prison for keeping millions of dollars which should have gone to clients injured by the diet-drug combination of fenfluramine and phentermine, known as fen-phen. The case is under appeal.

Dwyer, a tobacco and cattle farmer, declined to be interviewed after the auction. He has participated in the past with Lexington's purchase of development rights program, an effort to preserve rural acreage by offering compensation to landowners in an exchange for an agreement not to develop.

The Scott County farm sold Friday is off Ky. 25 between Lexington and Georgetown. The main residence overlooks Cane Run Creek and has 4,425 square feet, hardwood floors and an updated kitchen and baths. Also included in the sale were a four-bedroom manager's house, two employee houses, and three barns with 40 stalls. The farm was once valued at $3.4 million, according to a Web site advertising the auction.

The 1,568-square foot Vine Street condo had two bedrooms and 21/2 baths.

There were 11 registered bidders for the condo and 14 for the farm, said David Levy, vice president of LPS Auction Solutions, the Chicago-based firm handling the sale. Between 75 and 100 people gathered on the front lawn of the main house to watch the sale. Some stood near a massive gingko tree.

An order of forfeiture that prevented the property from being sold while Cunningham's case is under appeal was amended to allow the sale by the U.S. Marshals Service, which owned the properties before the auction.

Friday's sale is believed to be the largest in terms of monetary value handled by the U.S. Marshals Service in the Eastern District of Kentucky, said U.S. Marshal Loren "Squirrel" Carl.

The money will go to the victims in the fen-phen case, Carl said. Cunningham and another former attorney, William Gallion, were ordered to pay $127 million in restitution to the victims and to forfeit $30 million to the federal government.

Cunningham and Gallion were the original owners of Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year. Curlin was later owned by Jess Jackson, a California wine maker who died April 21 at age 81 after a long battle with cancer.

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