Multi-millionaire landlord stays in Sarasota and "pays it forward"

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:27 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Harvey Vengroff may be the most under-stated multi-millionaire you'll ever see.  You'd never know this former collection agent in the t-shirt and shorts built Vengroff Williams & Associates into a worldwide power.

He has 150 collection agents in Sarasota both on 41 near the airport--and off Fruitville near 301--workers like Jason Bragg.

"He's helped me out tremendously, not only with employment but housing, to purchase a house," Bragg said.

Besides being an employer, Harvey also has accrued a reported $75 million dollars in real estate.

He bought a former hotel on 41 near the airport and turned the rooms into apartments for a hundred renters each paying about $575 a month each. No lease.

He specializes in helping people who don't make much--like Michelle Johnson.

"He's more than a Santa Claus, he's a Godsend for people that can't get other places," Johnson said.

But this so-called Godsend became so frustrated at the government--both local and federal--he was set to sell off his properties, and literally sail off in his yacht to Belize--and then he changed his mind.

"I'm very enthusiastic about the way Sarasota is looking at things now," Vengroff said.

Vengroff says Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin's approach to reducing red tape helps him, which in turn helps those looking for affordable housing.  So why does he do it?

"I used to be one. And somebody helped me," he said.

Friends and colleagues are glad he chose not to move away.

"I'm pleased he's come back from Belize, and his ideas and projects are extraordinary," Bob Horne said.

And he's not the only one.

"Ecstatic. We're all very happy he's decided to stay and help up grow and help the community still," Johnson said.

As for Harvey, he's modest about helping countless low income workers.

"It's something to do, at 73, you have to have something to do."

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