Claiming they were duped out of $150,000, developers of Trump Tower Tampa have sued an ex-convict from Indiana who failed to deliver a $200-million loan.
SimDag LLC is pursuing civil theft charges against a self-proclaimed clergyman who goes by the name of the Very Rev. Father Barney Canada. Canada spent three years in federal prison for ripping off businesses in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He ran an "advance fee scheme" in which he collected millions of dollars in fees but failed to deliver loans.
SimDag attorney Jeffrey Warren said Canada, by withholding information about his criminal past during negotiations earlier this year, lured his clients into a contract he didn't intend to uphold.
SimDag struggled for two years to get financing for its 52-story luxury condo high-rise. Developers licensed the name from New York real estate mogul Donald Trump. Canada, head of a company called Providence Funding, appeared last spring as the project's financial savior.
"The fee was paid, and the loan was supposed to close simultaneously," Warren said. "The fees got paid and then nothing. My clients didn't know they were bamboozled until it was too late."
Canada's Indiana attorney, Thomas "Chip" Lewis, didn't return a call from the St. Petersburg Times.
Since the summer, when the Times broke the story of Canada's activities, several businesses have contacted the newspaper to say that they, too, paid Canada for loans that never materialized.
With the implosion of the real estate market, SimDag filed for bankruptcy in June. The lawsuit against Canada falls within the confines of the bankruptcy court.