Urban Equity has been in turmoil because of accusations of questionable real estate transfers in Tampa Heights.
By JEFF TESTERMAN
Published February 20, 2004
TAMPA - A court-ordered receiver will oversee the finances of Urban Equity Inc., an investment company at the center of a federal, state and local investigation into real estate fraud in Tampa Heights and Ybor City.
A petition to appoint the receiver was filed by B. Jonathan Krieg and Keyla Burgos, the remaining shareholders at Urban Equity after the company was abandoned by founders Rudy Arnauts, David Walker and Matthew Cox.
Krieg, a Georgia businessman who worked as an architectural stone carver, and Burgos, who is Cox's ex-wife, say they asked for the receiver after reading about fraud allegations in the St. Petersburg Times. The two said they feared Urban Equity's holdings would "waste and dissipate" without the oversight of a receiver, according to papers filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court Feb. 12.
A judge quickly approved the petition, and receiver Louis J. Timchak, a Lutz attorney, received the appointment order Wednesday.
"I will want to sell off assets, pay off creditors and minimize the pain for the innocent people involved," Timchak said Thursday.
Urban Equity, a real estate investment company formed in 2002, was thrown into turmoil late last year when an investigation was launched into questionable real estate transfers in Tampa Heights.
Walker, a real estate broker, resigned from Urban Equity and sold his shares back to the company in November. Arnauts gave his shares back to the company without seeking any financial consideration, according to court records. And Cox, a former mortgage broker stripped of his license after pleading guilty to mortgage-related theft and fraud charges, disappeared.
Walker claims Cox masterminded a scheme to use phony identities to buy 21 properties and obtain fraudulent mortgages totaling more than $2.7-million. The FBI, Tampa Police Department and Florida Office of Financial Regulation are investigating.
Timchak, the receiver, said his role will be with civil aspects of Urban Equity, not the criminal investigation. Among his most pressing duties is to deal with two foreclosure suits filed against Urban Equity this month.
Timchak must also try to determine the value of the assets left on Urban Equity's ledgers. The company paid $1.69-million for 25 properties it now owns, but they are valued at less than $425,000, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.
The remaining Urban Equity owners - and debtors - are Krieg and Burgos. In court papers, they say they were "stunned" to read in the Times stories about the use of phony buyers, fake notaries and falsified documents.
The petition says Krieg and Burgos have little experience in real estate and require a receiver because they are "incapable of operating or managing Urban Equity." Yet records indicate the two have been involved in dozens of property sales and mortgage loans in recent years. Krieg has bought or sold 27 properties in Hillsborough since 2002. Burgos has bought or sold 58 properties in the county in the last six years.
In addition, Burgos is president of Alpha Omega Property Management, a company which oversaw rental properties for Urban Equity's principals and shared an office address at 2714 N 16th St. with them.
Burgos said in December that she collected rent on several homes and apartments owned by a man named Brandon Green, who she said was an out-of-town investor she had never met or talked to and for whom she had no address or phone number. Burgos said she simply turned over rent receipts for Green's properties to Arnauts or Cox.
Brandon Green, according to Walker, was actually an identity invented by Cox to buy and mortgage property. Someone presenting himself as Brandon Green bought five properties and signed for mortgage loans totaling $858,000. After a few months, payments on the mortgages ceased, the borrower could not be found anywhere and all five loans went into foreclosure.