As Suns players and other notable moneymakers invested in Mortgages Ltd., word spread. Even NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar invested $100,000. But most of the capital came straight from the heart of Phoenix, and most investors put in between $500,000 and $1 million. As they saw consistent 10 percent returns, some mortgaged their homes at 5 or 6 percent so they could pocket more earnings.

In the late '90s, Coles bought the home of former governor and real estate casualty Fife Symington (incidentally on the same side of Camelback Mountain as Charles Keating's monument to wealth and collapse, The Phoenician resort).

Symington's former residence was nothing special; it had been the home of his wife Ann's parents, and embodied the low-key vibe of a neighborhood with great views and nothing to prove.

Scott Coles graduated from Central High School in 1978.
Scott Coles graduated from Central High School in 1978.
Mortgages Ltd. was founded by Scott Coles' father, who maintained a conservative business model.
John Dickerson
Mortgages Ltd. was founded by Scott Coles' father, who maintained a conservative business model.

But Coles changed all that. After he remodeled the entire house and guesthouse, he started on the neighboring lots.

Roren remembers golfing at Rockridge Estates, shortly after Coles bought a nearby home — just so he could tear it down. Roren says Coles hit a shot and casually mentioned, "I just bought the neighbor's house. Gave him what he wanted. No big deal.

"He looked at the clubhouse at a nice golf resort, and was just, like, 'I wanna build one of those.'"

Roren says the larger of the two pools at the place is 300,000 gallons, making it the largest residential swimming pool in Arizona.

In 2003, just as Coles' wealth was really beginning to accumulate, he and Francine divorced.

"His first wife left and said, 'Our lives suck. We have no life.' He was just stunned because he thought he was happy," says a close family friend who asked to be unnamed.

From many accounts, over the next five years, Coles grew wealthier but increasingly isolated and eccentric. Older brother Perry says Scott lived his best years before his extreme wealth.

"He was a pretty fun guy, probably more before he got to the level he did," Perry says. "Once he got to the level he did, that changes everybody. No matter what anyone says, money does things to everybody. And it's usually not good. Some people can control it. Some people can't. It overcomes them."

Court records show Scott and Francine's divorce was finalized in November 2003. The same month, Scott met Ashley Hill, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Minnesota who was working as a hostess at the high-end Aureole restaurant at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

A lot of people in town know Francine, who has kept the last name Coles and remains active in the local Jewish community, but few apparently know Ashley.

The two married on December 2, 2006, at Rockridge, in a very small ceremony of close friends and family. (Ali Khan, Coles' neighbor and reportedly his closest friend, served as the best man. Khan was unavailable for comment for this story. His wife, Lisa, who also declined comment, says he has been in Dubai since shortly after Coles' death.)

A close friend of Ashley's described her relationship with Scott Coles. The friend requested anonymity, saying Ashley's attorneys don't want her or her friends talking to reporters.

"She met Scott through a VIP host that she was friends with that was taking care of Scott at the time," the friend says, adding that Scott pursued Ashley.

The friend says that Ashley was unsure of Scott at first because he was twice her age.

"She was like, 'I don't know who this guy is. He seems to be nice.' It was an older guy, so you'd think [he was] kind of creepy. Through a series of get-togethers in Las Vegas she got to know him more and more."

Ashley moved to Phoenix in 2004 and dated Scott on and off for two years. The two did not live together until they were married, the friend says.

Even Julie Coles, who once referred to Ashley as "his stupid little wife," acknowledged that Ashley made her brother happy.

"He just looked like a little kid in a candy store," Julie says. "Ashley was somebody young and vibrant. I'm glad she came along because it seemed like all he did was work, work, work. She added to his life that there was more than work."

Another close friend of Scott's says, "Ashley was more a sweet Midwestern girl than a gold digger," but adds that she was "bored shitless."

"Poor Ashley. The man just talked business the whole time. Ashley was 25 and very sweet, but none of us there could have been the most wonderful people for her to talk to. For Scott, it was all about projects and real estate and business and securities licenses," she says.

"He was just a nice person who lived in spreadsheets."

Also during 2004, Coles' mother, Lois, passed away. Her death had a significant effect on Scott, Julie says. She wonders whether a lack of approval from their mother was behind Scott's superhuman drive and behind his death too.

"I just truly believe your whole life you need that motherly, unconditional love, no matter what. When [Mom] died . . . It screwed us up even more. You no longer have that person to prove yourself to. So it's like, 'Who am I doing this for?'" Julie says.

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