Make us your home page
Instagram

When going got rough, real estate entrepreneurs went shopping

How many tainted home loans does it take to buy "black Tahitian South Sea pearls?" Or to splurge on $10,000 worth of baubles at "Diamond Creations" on the island of St. Maarten?

If you're Phil Coon, the former Coast Bank mortgage executive credited with eviscerating his company last year, your take was something like $1.5-million.

Coon's Lifestyles-of-the-Rich- and-Infamous routine ended this month when he agreed to plead guilty to fraud. He skimmed fees as part of a no-money down home building scheme that ultimately helped drive his Bradenton bank out of business.

Coon was unexceptional. As you perform post-mortems on failed, and sometimes shady, Tampa area real estate operations, you notice that spending sprees often correspond with the shakiness of the business:

Raising the roof: Jesse Battle, the bankrupt St. Petersburg builder who collaborated with Coon on the failed home flipping deals, used his gains to buy a Smoky Mountain retreat. Ron Smith did Battle one better. Smith, head of Tampa's defunct Smith Family Homes, left behind about $50-million in bad debts when he dissolved the company this summer. But he still found the money to set himself up in a $1.7-million mansion in Odessa.

Losing it in Vegas: A perennial favorite. You've made a killing and now it's time to gamble away some of that lucre. Church bingo just won't cut it. It's off to the Nevada desert. Foreclosuresdaily.com, a multimillion-dollar real estate seminar service in Largo that crumbled under the weight of its debts this month, combined business with pleasure by taking its show on the road to Planet Hollywood in Vegas.

A movable feast: Fancy hideaways and weekend getaways aren't enough. A wannabe real estate tycoon needs status symbols. We've already covered Coon's taste for Pacific island oysters, but how about Battle's new Hummer, bought when his home building empire was bleeding millions in losses? Then there's Martin Donovan, a Realtor at the forefront of a foreclosure epidemic in Clearwater. He liked to tool around in a blue Bentley when he wasn't sailing his yacht.

Rest assured, not all such spending was self-indulgent. Prosecutors said Coon gave "significant charitable contributions to a church." What's that Bible verse about pearls before swine?

When going got rough, real estate entrepreneurs went shopping 10/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay

    Health

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  2. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.

    Medicine

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  3. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  4. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  5. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week

    Blogs

    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.