CAPE CORAL, Fla--Investors in the Pine Island 101 Land Trust call for action after finding out their land was mortgaged and is in foreclosure. They say the land was worth millions of dollars and want to know why the trustee of the land, Cape Coral realtor Greg Eagle, mortgaged the land in the first place.
The Pine Island 101 Land trust is 101 acres of property near the German American Club on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. It is owned by 52 investors who bought the property together in the 1990s for 3 million dollars.
Usually, people use a land trust to buy a bigger piece of land than they could afford individually. Keeping the block of land together is more attractive to businesses needing a big plot of land making it easier to sell and make a profit.
People invest in land trusts to gain money for retirement or to pay for employee benefits and pensions.
Cape Coral Realtor Greg Eagle arranged the Pine Island 101 deal and is the trustee for the property. Investors told WINK NEWS Eagle's reputation for managing these land trusts made this property attractive.
Investors told us they were surprised to receive a letter in April of 2011 telling them the property had been mortgaged and was in foreclosure.
In that letter to the 52 investors, Eagle apologizes for using the property as collateral to get a 17 million dollar loan for a project to bring a private homeland security training facility Florida.
The bank who issued the loan, First National Bank of Pennsylvania, filed for foreclosure on the property after not receiving payment.
Dr. Charles Curtis, one of the investors in the property, said the property wasn't to be mortgaged. "We have a trustee for the property and it had been paid off. So we as a group owned it," said Curtis.
The original trust obtained by Wink News shows 52 people with a percentage interest in the property.
However, Wink News has uncovered court documents challenging the foreclosure showing Eagle signed and had notorized a document saying he had full ownership of the property and permission to mortgage it.
"It's a pretty serious case," said Attorney Michael Whitt, the attorney challenging the foreclosure on behalf of one of the investors, "I mean what we have uncovered the trail of documents and and doctored documents. It's a pretty scary thing what has happened."
Whitt says many of the beneficiaries or investors in the trust invested their life savings into the trust. He also says the property is still very valuable. The most recent appraisal done in December of 2008 valued the land at 22 million dollars.
CALL FOR ACTION contacted Greg Eagle. He declined our request to go on camera saying he is currently out of town. However, over the phone he told us as trustee he feels he did have the right to mortgage the property. He told WINK NEWS that he signed that affidavit to simplify the process of getting the loan.
Whitt disagrees. He says if the property was mortgaged, the proceeds of the mortgage should have gone to the beneficiaries not to Mr. Eagle.
"He provided affidavits to First National Bank and I am sure First National Bank would tell you that they relied on his assertions his statements, his providing these documents that said he owned 100% of the trust which they are finding out to the contrary. They're finding out that the actual trust document is what we had and what we filed with the court. And that there are several dozen people who have been bilked out of their money," said Whitt.
WINK NEWS wanted to know what happened to the 17 million dollas that Eagle received from the mortgage. In his letter to investors, Eagle points to a federal civil suit filed in the Eastern District of New York. It documents a disturbing fraud scheme involving two known criminals and a Wells Fargo Vice President.
The civil suit says Eagle was working with the EVMC Real Estate Consulting Service to get a multimillion dollar loan for his Homeland Security training facility project.
The suit contends the consulting service was a shell company run by Larry and Aida Esacove, internationally known for defrauding people of money from Europe to Malaysia to the United States.
According to the federal suit, the Esacoves paid a Wells Fargo bank Vice-President Michael Reis under the table to write letters on Wells Fargo letterhead.
Those letters would tell loan applicants like Eagle they were almost approved for huge loans.
Then the suit alleges in the eleventh hour, EVMC would demand more money to close the deal.
The loan applicants would pony up more money…and then start the process all over again. The suit says EVMC never intended to ever give a real loan.
Eagle says it took months realized he was the target of the alleged scam.
Eagle detailed his dealing with the EVMC in his apology letter to investors saying he had spent 30 million dollars trying to get 425 million dollars in financing for the homeland security project.
He writes in the letter he was a victim of a "crime of economic terrorism" and said if it goes to trial the RICO act would be involved.
The letter also says, "Wells Fargo does not want the media to get ahold of this. They will settle before trial."
But months after the letter was sent, investors in the Pine Island 101 project like Charles Curtis have not heard anything.
We contacted Wells Fargo about the allegations contained in the lawsuit. A spokeswoman told us by email that they do not comment on pending litigation.
We also contacted the FBI to see if they were investigating. They also told us by email "no comment."