A Seattle man who recently bought nearly $1 million worth of downtown Sandpoint property - and offered to bail everyone out of the Bonner County Jail - was committed for mental evaluation by authorities this week.
Michael J. Lemberg, 51, showed up in Sandpoint several weeks ago. He went on an extravagant spending spree, buying land, cars, a home, art and even hundreds of dollars’ worth of pizza for people he didn’t know.
Sheriff Chip Roos said Lemberg turned out to be a manic depressive who had checked himself out of a mental hospital in Seattle last month.
Lemberg, who reportedly made millions running a wholesale T-shirt business in Seattle, had stopped taking medication to control his illness.
Roos said that would explain some of his odd behavior, including trying to have the Sandpoint mayor arrested two days ago.
“Apparently, his (Lemberg’s) family had him committed over there in Seattle,” Roos said. “But his (Lemberg’s) attorney somehow got the commitment order changed from involuntary to voluntary, and he promptly checked himself out and left.”
Sheriff’s deputies contacted Lemberg’s daughter, who lives in Washington, D.C. She had been looking for her dad since he left the hospital and didn’t know he was in Sandpoint.
“It sounds like the family has been looking all over for him, and the daughter was glad we had him,” Roos said.
Lemberg was stopped and arrested Tuesday night after driving erratically across Sandpoint’s Long Bridge. Roos said Lemberg became violent, wrestling with officers, banging his head on a car and spitting on deputies.
When he was taken to Bonner General Hospital for a mental evaluation, Lemberg began spitting on hospital staff and was sent to Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene.
“Hopefully, they can get him some help and get his problem under control,” Roos said.
Officials at Kootenai Medical Center said they could not release any information on psychiatric patients or even confirm if Lemberg was still at the hospital.
Lemberg’s confrontation with deputies began Tuesday when he showed up at the Sheriff’s Department and wanted Mayor Ron Chaney arrested. Lemberg had been in an argument with Chaney earlier that day at City Hall. The mayor had police remove Lemberg from his office.
Chaney was on vacation and unavailable for comment Thursday, but clerks in the office said there was no physical confrontation between the two.
When deputies declined to arrest Chaney, Roos said Lemberg pulled out cash and wanted to bail everyone out of the Bonner County Jail. He also offered to buy horses for the Sheriff’s Department for a mounted patrol, asking a dispatcher if she would care for the horses.
Authorities said Lemberg then went to his car, tossed a cellular phone out the window and sped off. A deputy followed him and stopped Lemberg after he crossed the center line and repeatedly sped up and slammed on his brakes.
“According to the deputy and co-workers (of Lemberg) we felt he was a danger to himself or others and mentally incapacitated,” Roos said.
Lemberg recently bought three prime downtown pieces of land, including the former Kentucky Fried Chicken building and the buildings that house the Beach Mart and Brucchi’s restaurant on First Avenue.
Last week Lemberg was escorted out of a Festival at Sandpoint auction after he tried to buy all the items and became verbally abusive to organizers.
Roos said Lemberg was put in the Seattle mental facility last month for several alleged assaults and threatening to hire a hit man to kill another person.
It was unclear Thursday how Lemberg’s mental condition will affect the purchases he made in Sandpoint. Many of the transactions were made with cash or checks that already have cleared.
“That’s probably going to be something for the lawyers to figure out,” Roos said.