MIDDLETON, Tenn. — It was a house built with millions in ill-gotten gains, but Saturday, the Bates estate in Middleton, Tennessee went on the auction block.
For hundreds of people, many who lost their life savings, the name Larry Bates has meant financial ruin.
Bates, his wife and two sons were sentenced to a total of 627 years for their roles in a gold and silver Ponzi scheme. They used their religious beliefs to con victims out of more than $21 million.
Auctioneer John Roebuck is tuning up for the auction. He said the auction and estate sale brought in “over two million dollars.”
"This is about 12,000-square-foot house. I think it's got about 10 bedrooms and about 10 baths, plus or minus," he said.
There's also an elevator.
Three hundred acres are broken down into seven tracts, featuring the huge mansion and other homes and property owned by Bates and his family. There are also cars, boats and a motor home.
He hopes the auction will bring some monetary relief to Bates' victims.
"Our goal is to work as hard as we can — God is going to bless us, He already has — and they'll get some of their money back," Roebuck said. "Maybe not all of it, but at least they'll get some."
Bidding will take place in a building where people can watch a Power Point presentation with pictures of items up for auction.
What they won't be bidding on are the lavish furnishings inside the Bates mansion.
Everything including dishes, closets full of clothes, paintings, expensive perfume and even a bar of soap were left behind when the Bates family was sent to prison. It will all be sold.
Friday, John Sorey of Selmer, Tennessee came by to look at some of the vehicles up for auction. He says the Bates' victims got a pretty raw deal.
"Oh, he was living pretty good," Sorey said, "on other people's money."
The property caught David Lovely's attention. He operates a ministry called Summitsview Ranch in nearby Walnut, Mississippi.
'"We have 21 boys and many success stories," Lovely said. "They do their education there, they learn a vocational trade, as well as learn how to be men, respectable men."
Lovely says even though Bates used Christianity to swindle people, he envisions a boarding house here for troubled girls.
"It has plenty of bathrooms, I know that. So, that part is covered," he said. "It's a beautiful property, very therapeutic. It's got my attention."
The auction began at 10:07 a.m. Saturday at 3780 Winwood Farm Loop Road in Middleton.