Make us your home page
Instagram

Fake Catholic priest accused of $2.7M fraud that includes Florida developers

Father Barney Canada, a make-believe Roman Catholic priest accused of duping developers of Trump Tower Tampa out of $150,000, has been arrested and charged with swindling $2.7 million from developers across Florida and the United States.

A grand jury in South Bend, Ind., charged Byron Levon Canada with 31 counts of wire and mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. The indictment was handed down in U.S. District Court on Dec. 9. Taken into custody Monday, Canada pleaded not guilty.

Canada was charged with running an "advance fee scheme" that collected millions in application fees for commercial loans he never intended to provide.

Most of the alleged victims were companies like SimDag LLC, developer of Trump Tower Tampa. Locked out of the traditional lending market, SimDag sought out Canada for a $200 million construction loan. Canada promised quick loan approval, took a $150,000 fee but never delivered, according to the developers.

SimDag fell into bankruptcy several months later, having never built a single story of the 52-story luxury condo skyscraper. It was the same story for developers in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and elsewhere.

Canada spent three years in prison in the 1990s for another advance fee scheme. He re-emerged in South Bend, near the University of Notre Dame, portraying himself as a pious clergyman running a religiously affiliated company, Providence Funding.

"Canada represented himself to be a priest and dressed in cleric garb when meeting with victims in order to give the defendants' advance fee scheme an aura of legitimacy and honesty," the indictment said.

But in each case, when the loan was to close, Canada stopped answering calls and e-mails. The fees were never seen again. The federal government demanded Canada repay $2.7 million and said it will try to seize assets.

Trump Tower principals settled out of court with Canada this fall. "I can't say anything because of the confidentiality agreement," SimDag bankruptcy attorney Jeff Warren said Tuesday. "But I've got a smile on my face."

Fake Catholic priest accused of $2.7M fraud that includes Florida developers 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 9:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe has been taking precautions in light of the Seminole Heights killings: keeping the lights on all night and having employees walk to their cars in groups.
  3. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  4. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]
  5. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]