What was big talk is now a trail of IOUs through Hernando

Even if you don't remember Jimmy DeMaria, you probably remember his big plans.

High-end residential development on his 967-acre ranch in Pasco and a new phase of the posh Southern Hills Plantation on 700 acres he bought south of Brooksville; a water park and refurbished motel on U.S. 19; a new resort at Oak Hills Golf Club that would cater to rich out-of-towners, not cheapskate locals whose idea of a cocktail, he said, "is ice water with a lemon.''

Some of us (me included) thought this sounded like empty bluster, but we didn't call him on it. We should have.

Blue Stone Real Estate, Construction and Development Corp. of Spring Hill and several of DeMaria's other companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April. Court files reveal his finances are in chaos, that he owes large sums to a wide variety of businesses and, according to the U.S. Trustee's office in Tampa, that he has repeatedly misled the court:

"It appears Blue Stone … engaged in fraud, dishonesty, gross mismanagement, and was incompetent with regard to managing the affairs of these estates.''

After DeMaria's wife filed for divorce in 2006, he shuttled more than 20 parcels of property from companies named in his bankruptcy to ones that aren't, Terry Boatner, a lawyer for the Trustee's office, wrote in court records.

DeMaria used several hundred thousand dollars of Blue Stone's money for his own benefit, including to make payments on a Porsche and the Oak Hills property, Boatner wrote; he failed to tell the court about property he owns in Arkansas and Missouri valued at $5.6-million, and has been unable to account for the proceeds from recent sales of land and, in 2007, an airplane.

Even if his companies' property is worth as much as he says — and Boatner wrote that DeMaria has provided no proof that it is — its value of $27.5-million is dwarfed by the staggering (and probably somewhat inflated) $73-million in claims from creditors.

Blue Stone has filed no federal income tax returns since at least 2004, court records show, and DeMaria's companies owe Hernando County more than $350,000 in delinquent taxes.

In a profanity-laced statement, DeMaria, 51, blamed his problems on Boatner and on his wife, Deborah, who both declined to comment.

"You want to know what the bottom line is, no court recognizes female menopause,'' DeMaria said. "This is just emotionally thinking women going hog wild.''

His wife froze his assets when she filed for divorce, preventing him from making money on his land and forcing him into bankruptcy protection, he said. The property transfers were meant to protect his children's inheritance, and Boatner says he owns properties, such as Oak Hills, that he actually doesn't (though he sure said he did when announcing plans for the resort).

Finally, he said, the whole state has turned against entrepreneurs like him.

"I don't see myself ever being able to work in Florida because Florida has gone so anti-business,'' he said.

But his four-page list of creditors, most of whom will likely never be fully repaid, includes local engineering firms, lawyers, consultants, tradesmen, and, in a clear display of how irresponsible speculation helped cripple financial institutions, more than a half-dozen banks.

Now, that's anti-business.

What was big talk is now a trail of IOUs through Hernando 12/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 15, 2008 12:10pm]

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