Make us your home page

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. City Council approves $5 million for Clearwater Marine Aquarium expansion


    CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday approved contributing $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for its massive expansion project.

    Clearwater has agreed to contributed $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium 
's $66 million expansion project.. [ Clearwater Marine Aquarium] 

  2. Trigaux: Florida, Tampa Bay lagging in growth of their startups

    Economic Development

    The annual assessment of how entrepreneurs are doing across the country is out from the Kauffman Foundation — among the best watchers of the nation's startup scene. How do Florida and Tampa Bay fare?

    Lured by financial incentives, startup GeniusCentral relocated from Manatee County in 2015 to St. Petersburg, promising to creatye 40 new jobs. It took downtown space in an appropriately creative workpace for entrepreneurs. It did not last there, later moving back to less expensive space in Manatee. A new Kauffman Index report on entrepreneurship found that Florida is a good place to launch startups but a tougher place to grow them.
  3. Pleasant dreams: sleep travel site gives high marks to Tampa airport


    TAMPA — Traveling might be considered closer to a nightmare than a dream for many. But that might be different for those who travel through Tampa International Airport. It was ranked the No. 3 overall best airport in North America by Sleeping in Airports, a travel site that tracks the best airports to catch some …

    Tampa International Airport was ranked as the No. 3 best overall airport by travel site Sleeping in Airports. | [Times file photo]
  4. Google parent leads $1B Lyft investment, deepening Uber rift


    SAN FRANCISCO — Google's parent company is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber.

    This  file photo shows a smartphone displaying the Lyft app.Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber. [Associated Press, 2016]
  5. ReliaQuest opens storefront in mock city of JA Biztown

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based cybersecurity company, opened a "storefront" Wednesday at JA Biztown. The storefront is part of a mock city where students learn economic concepts and run businesses. About 20 real-life Tampa Bay companies sponsor storefronts that local students get to run for a day as part of a …

    ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based cybersecurity company, opened a "storefront" Wednesday at JA Biztown, a mock city where students learn to run businesses. | [MALENA CAROLLO, Times]