George Allen / EducateMHC Blog Mobile Home & Land Lease Community Advocate & Expert

March 21, 2024

Very Bad Boys of Manufactured Housing

Filed under: Uncategorized — George Allen @ 6:35 am

Blog Posting # 785, 22 March 2024; Copyright 2020.

Know this! HUD-Code manufactured housing (‘MH’) is federally-regulated, performance-based, affordable & attainable factory-built housing (a.k.a. offsite construction). And land lease communities (a.k.a. manufactured home communities & ‘mobile home parks’) comprise the commercial real estate (‘CRE’) component of MH! And EducateMHC is the online advocate, official historian, trend tracker, and information resource for both business models. Access EducateMHC via (317) 881-3815; email:, & visit to order Community Management in the Manufactured Housing Industry. This is the sole MH-focused professional property management text in print today! And SWAN SONG is a history of land lease communities & official record of annual MH production totals since 1955; and my autobiography, From Smittyalpha6 to MHMaven describes personal combat adventures in Vietnam as a USMC lieutenant, a 45 year entrepreneur business career in MH & community ownership, as well as author and freelance consultant.

George Allen, CPM®Emeritus, MHM®Master, is the only emeritus member of the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), a founding board member of MJHI’s National Communities Council (‘NCC’) division, an RV/MH Hall of fame enshrinee, MHInsider magazine editor at large & Allen Legacy columnist, Vietnam combat veteran & retired lieutenant colonel of U.S. Marines, as well as author/editor of 20 nonfiction books, & chapbooks re MH, communities, business management & prayer.


First penned the following lines during September 2020, three and a half years ago. Here’re a few tales of some very bad boys of manufactured housing. There are more tales, as yet untold.

INTRODUCTION: This blog has been a long time in the writing. Some counseled me against sharing this dark side of our industry and realty asset class. Others encouraged me to share, as all persons identified here, have pretty much faded into history; and not so much for novelty interest, but as a Warning to be wary of business entanglements that simply don’t seem to be right, in one or more ways. GFA

Very Bad Boys of Manufactured Housing

“Having a cozy relationship with The Outfit doesn’t always work to your advantage. Take my friend Joe Testa for example. One look at him and you knew he had dough. You might have even thought he was connected. He wore suits that cost a thousand bucks. He had a limo and driver and a gorgeous ninety-foot yacht on Lake Michigan.

Joe was a real estate genius who’d made millions and millions in property deals. He owned several fancy mobile home parks in the Midwest and some resort development in Florida.” P. 236. *1

One of these ‘parks’ was Sterling Estates on the South side of Chicago. There are all sorts of urban legends out there, to this day, how Joe eluded a particular mobster intent on killing him, by taking refuge in mobile homes owned by his tenants. But, in the end, that didn’t work well.

“Joe was driving down the street one night, and he had his wife in the car. And here come these guys, they pull up by Joe, and boom, boom, boom, they open fire on Joe and his wife. They put five deer slugs right through Joe’s Lincoln.

Joe was out of town when they blew up his house. It was a beautiful, expensive home in the suburbs, and it was totally destroyed.”p.244

Shortly after that, Joe had a heart attack, which sidelined him a bit. Though he did make it to Las Vegas one last time. “We hit the town every night, and during the day we found some girls and went out on the boat. We got half a mile out and everybody got naked – that was Joe. Sun and fun. Work hard, play hard….” P.250

The end? “According to the police report, it was around noon on June 27, 1981, when Joe put the key in the ignition of his blue Lincoln Town car. The explosion blew the windows out and blasted the hubcaps right off the car. It also blew off Joe’s leg and hand.” P.250. Joe died soon thereafter.

And the story of Sterling Estates, and other Testa-owned land lease communities, and how they became part of other property portfolios, continued after Joey’s death.


            Probably the most notorious and tragic manufactured home community-related story has to do with short-lived GEF Communities (a company I worked for briefly), headquartered in Greenwood, IN. During 1979, Gian Luigi Ferri came to town to buy four ‘mobile home parks’ he intended to become the centerpiece of a property portfolio destined to be the ‘Holiday Inn’ of manufactured housing. Things did not go well from the start. A major unintentional accounting error, on the part of the buyer’s due diligence team – but not discovered until after ‘closing’ the transaction, led to dissolution of the fledgling company, and rapid sale of its’ portfolio of four communities. *2

            14 years later, on 1 July 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri, carrying three firearms (two TEC-9s & one 45 cal. automatic handgun), entered the Pettit & Martin law firm on the 34th floor of a high rise office building in downtown San Francisco There he murdered eight individuals and wounded six others, both attorneys and clients. As police closed in on him, he committed suicide. During the investigation after this mass shooting, police shared the content of a letter found on his body that described business deals – a failed land development deal in Las Vegas and mobile home parks in Indiana that may have been the motivation behind his actions.

            Now, 27 years after the 101 California Street shooting, the four land lease communities are owned by other portfolio firms, most if not all of which, have no idea of this tragic episode in manufactured housing history, as it relates to their properties.


            Then there’s John Robinson, a.k.a. John Osborne, and the Slavemaster. This sordid tale is told in the non-fiction crime tome titled ANYONE YOU WANT ME TO BE, ‘a True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet’. Briefly put, John Robinson was a smart, generally unemployed middle-aged con man, embezzler, kidnapper and forger who, when not in prison (1987-1993), lived in Midwest mobile home parks his wife Nancy managed.

“His wife was now managing a mobile home park called Southfork in Belton, Missouri, a Kansas City suburb to the south. The park promoted a theme that reflected the huge TV hit Dallas from several years earlier.” P.94  Later, Santa Barbara Estates.

My brief contact with Robinson occurred in 1995, when he launched “Specialty Publications, which featured a trade magazine, Manufactured Modular Living, about the mobile home industry.” P.127 He, at the time, wanted to merge his new pub with one of the business newsletters I was penning and distributing to land lease community owners/operators nationwide. Not interested.

What was really going on at the time?

“Nobody who lived next to Robinson- and quite possibly nobody who lived with him or spent time in his home – realized that each morning he waited until Nancy had gone to work at 8:30AM, before turning on at least one computer (he had three desktops and two laptops). Then he went to his real job, which didn’t have much to do with selling ad space for Manufactured Modular Living. He got on line and surfed chat rooms and Web sites, establishing new relationships with women he’d never seen.” P.128 Osborne’s misadventures earned him the nefarious title of being the internet’s first serial killer.

Turns out he’d befriended women from many different backgrounds, race, and sexual preference – including S&M. Without going into detail here, suffice it to say he was convicted of murdering three women, maybe two more. Two of the three known victims of this serial killer were stuffed into plastic 55 gallon drums.

‘On the trial’s third day a local radio personality (gave) away T-shirts. They were emblazoned with the words: ‘John E. Robinson. Trial 2002. Roll Out the Barrels – of Evidence’ p.338.

In the end, Robinson was found guilty of all charges, to be executed at some point in the future. As of fall 2024 he is on death row in a Kansas prison.


And there are more bad boys of manufactured housing. During my 40+ year career in manufactured housing and land lease communities, I’ve known income tax evaders who’ve served ‘hard time’ in federal prisons, others who convicted of fraud, even portfolio heads who were sued successfully by disgruntled limited investors. But we’ll stop the recitation here.

George Allen, CPM, MHM


End Notes.

  1. Excerpts from DOUBLE DEAL, ‘The Inside Story of Murder, unbridled Corruption, and the Cop who was a Mobster’, by Michael Corbitt with Sam Giancana, 2003. Also google Joey Testa.
  • Complete story is related in ‘An Error to Die For’, featured in the book SWAN SONG, by George Allen, 2017, available via Also google ‘101 California Street Shootings’.
  • For more information and photographs, visit google: John E. Robinson. There also learn of two more books detailing Osborne’s crimes against women.

George Allen

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