At the height of the real estate boom, developer John Loder and his Sun Vista Development Group bought four large properties with plans to turn them into high-end condominiums.
Two of those projects — the Bay Pines Mobile Home Park in Seminole and Snell Isle Club Apartments in St. Petersburg — came to naught.
After Loder forced hundreds of mostly elderly residents of the mobile home park to sell and then razed the park, the project came to a standstill. The empty land is now for sale. And when Loder fell behind on mortgage payments for the Snell Isle property, the bank foreclosed and eventually sold it to another investor.
Now, Loder and three associates face federal charges of conspiracy, making false statements and violating an environmental protection law in connection with the disposal of asbestos while developing the other two properties, one in Indian Shores and the other in South Pasadena.
Accused of five counts of violating the Clean Air Act and one count of making false statements are Loder, 43, who has addresses in Redington Beach and St. Pete Beach, and Stephen J. Spencer, 48, of Clearwater. Sun Vista's Web site lists Loder and Spencer as managing partners.
Guy Gannaway, 53, of Safety Harbor is charged with eight counts of violating the Clean Air Act and one of making false statements. Keith McConnell, 54, of Largo, who is also known as "Animal," is charged with eight counts of violating the Clean Air Act and one of making false statements.
Gannaway owns Gannaway Builders, which worked for Sun Vista at the two sites. McConnell was a supervisor for Gannaway Builders.
All four are also charged with conspiracy and making false statements.
The maximum penalty for each count of the indictment includes five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment charges that no asbestos survey was conducted for the Indian Shores property, once called the Indian Pass Apartments and now renamed the Barefoot Beach Resort. The indictment says at least one bid for the complete removal of the material was rejected, that some of the asbestos was covered with new drywall, and that some asbestos was removed after a roof leaked without following prescribed methods.
The indictment also charges that renovations were made to the South Pasadena property — once called the Pasadena Apartments, now renamed the Shore Club Pasadena — without removing asbestos-containing ceiling material before disturbing it. The renovation work was done without the presence of a properly trained on-site representative, the indictment says.
Loder's attorney, Adam Allen of the federal public defender's office in Tampa, said Tuesday they "look forward to a favorable resolution of this matter within the court system."
Clearwater attorney George E. Tragos, who represents Spencer, said his client is "a respected architect. He did everything correctly according to the Clean Air Act. He always has and always will. He will be exonerated at the trial."
Tampa attorney Pedro Amador Jr., who represents Gannaway, said his client has pleaded not guilty.
"We are confident that, at the end of the day, Mr. Gannaway will be vindicated," Amador said.
Attorney Mark Ciaravella of Tampa, who represents McConnell, said there were problems on the sites but they were caused by weather. McConnell, he said, did not conspire to break the law and had every reason to make sure laws were being obeyed because he himself was exposed to the asbestos.
Reach Anne Lindberg at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.