Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

Foreclosure suit filed against Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary property

INDIAN SHORES — The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, already plagued with money problems, is facing yet another financial crisis.

A creditor has filed suit to foreclose on land the sanctuary owns at 12388 Starkey Road near Largo.

The creditor, Ronald J. Cooper, alleges the sanctuary and its founder/director Ralph Heath owe him $550,000 for not repaying the loan. Cooper is also asking for unpaid interest, damages and attorney fees. He also wants the land to be sold at a foreclosure sale.

The sanctuary bought the land for $550,000 in December 1997, according to Pinellas County property records. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office estimates the current market value of the 2.23 acres, which the sanctuary uses for storage, at about $957,500.

Neither Heath nor his attorney, David Platte of Clearwater, could be reached Thursday for comment. But Cooper's attorney, Peter Vasti of St. Petersburg, said the parties are trying to work out a solution.

"It's a spirit of cooperation right now," Vasti said.

According to court records, the sanctuary borrowed $550,000 in November 2009 from CD Roco LLC. The sanctuary and Heath promised to pay $5,500 a month in interest until November 2011, when the loan would come due. At that time, they were supposed to pay back the $550,000.

Interest payments were made until late 2011, about the time the full payment was due. Vasti said his client, who now holds the mortgage, has received no money since then. Cooper finally decided to sue, he said, to protect his interests when he discovered the federal government last year filed tax liens against the sanctuary.

Cooper, he said, "has been patient for such a long period of time" and had "no choice" but to file suit to protect his investment.

Heath, 67, founded the sanctuary in 1971. It has a reputation the world over as a model avian rehabilitation center. The sanctuary, 18328 Gulf Blvd., is supported by private donations. Records filed with the Internal Revenue Service show the sanctuary had total revenues of about $1.47 million and total expenses of about $1.44 million for the 2010 calendar year, the most recent figures available. It's unclear how many employees currently work there.

But the sanctuary has had problems over the years. Many times those centered on money issues. In 2007, for example, the sanctuary was forced to close for two days after it failed to pay workers' compensation insurance. Three years later, the sanctuary hit rough financial times caused in part by the recession and escalating costs. There was talk of drastically cutting back its services.

Just last year, the IRS filed three tax liens totaling about $187,700 for unpaid payroll taxes. Heath blamed the slow pace of donations. Those remain unpaid, according to Pinellas County records.

In November, the U.S. Department of Labor found that the sanctuary violated minimum wage and overtime laws. The sanctuary agreed to pay nine employees a total of $21,336. It is unclear if those payments have been made.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

As former teammates with the Rays and throughout baseball share thoughts and prayers, RHP Danny Farquhar is "progressing well" in a Chicago hospital after suffering a hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm on Friday.The White Sox on Monday released th...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 23

Monday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 10, Citrus Park Christian 0Northeast 12, Countryside 5
Updated: 3 hours ago
Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

TAMPA — A 68-year-old man was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge, according to Tampa police.Officers took James Leon Jackson into custody at 2712 W Nassau St. in west Tampa at about 1 p.m. A warrant for his arrest had been issued Friday....
Updated: 3 hours ago
A new museum will honor America’s lynching victims, including those killed in Tampa Bay

A new museum will honor America’s lynching victims, including those killed in Tampa Bay

In May 1914, a Hernando County grand jury decided not to indict John Davis, a black man accused of attempting to assault a white woman in a hotel. But days after he was released from the Citrus County jail, Davis’s body was found beaten with a ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., April 23, midday:40 874 5140e_SRit69262Mon., April 23, evening:76 974 2849e_SRit78236Fantasy 5Mon., April...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Waffle House slaying suspect arrested; veteran receives world’s most extensive penis transplant; more in U.S. news

Waffle House slaying suspect arrested; veteran receives world’s most extensive penis transplant; more in U.S. news

TennesseeWaffle House slaying suspect arrestedThe mentally unstable white gunman suspected of killing four people and wounding more at a diverse Nashville Waffle House was arrested near his apartment Monday, authorities said. Police and federal agent...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Armenia’s leader quits amid protests; van driver kills 10 in Toronto; more in world news

Armenia’s leader quits amid protests; van driver kills 10 in Toronto; more in world news

ArmeniaLeader quits: ‘I was wrong’Ten days of demonstrations forced the resignation Monday of the man who has led post-Soviet Armenia since 2008. The unexpected resignation prompted the jubilation of tens of thousands in capital Yerevan’s Republic Sq...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

TAMPA — The 1-month-old infant reported missing Monday was found hours later about 300 miles north in Quincy, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Sage Cooper was reported to be unharmed, officials said, and Gadsden County sheriff’s ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Saudi-led airstrike at Yemen wedding killed at least 20

SANAA, Yemen — An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, killing at least 20 people including the bride, health officials said Monday, as harrowing images emerged on social media of the deadly bombing, the third t...
Updated: 5 hours ago