Lakireddy Bali Reddy, a notorious Berkeley landlord who was convicted of sex trafficking in 2001, died in Oakland on Monday, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. He was 84.
Reddy was found unresponsive in his home and transported to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, where he was pronounced dead of natural causes, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly. Telegu News International first reported his death, and said it was due to “respiratory ailments.”
At the time of his arrest in 2000, Reddy owned more than 1,000 rental properties in Berkeley and was one of the city’s richest landlords, according to the San Francisco Public Press. He was convicted of sexually abusing nearly 25 women from India between 1986 and 2001. He ultimately spent eight years in Lompoc federal prison and registered as a sex offender in California.
Student journalists from Berkeley High School uncovered his sex trafficking after 17-year-old Chanti Pratipatti (who was initially named as Seetha Vemireddy) died of carbon monoxide poisoning at one of Reddy’s properties. Her death, and Reddy’s abuse of immigrant women, galvanized local activism around sexual and labor trafficking and exploitation.
A group of Bay Area women founded Alliance of South Asians Taking Action in 2000 “in direct response to the charges against Reddy,” according to co-coordinator Anirvan Chatterjee, and urged local South Asians to hold Reddy accountable for his actions.
“ASATA is still around, and as active as ever, two decades on. Our very youngest members were born after the case first broke. Reddy’s abuse has been a catalyst for left, feminist, and progressive community organizing around all the issues that came up in the case — labor, caste, gender, and immigration,” Chatterjee said.
Reddy moved to the United States in the 1980s from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. He founded the Lakireddy Balireddy College of Engineering in his hometown of Mylavaram in 1989, and it remains open today.
The college shared a message in tribute to Reddy on its website after his passing, celebrating him for his contributions to Mylavaram.
“He was a poor man’s dream. He was also India’s favorite son. Lakireddy Bali Reddy did a (master’s degree) in U.S. He is not with us anymore. But he started an engineering college in Mylavaram. He fulfilled the wishes of thousands of students’ dreams, that’s why he is still alive (in our minds).”