Dustin Leonard got a call last week from a friend saying Meadow Lake Resort, a popular campground they use in Urbana, Ohio, had suddenly closed.
Leonard, 40, drove an hour from his Dayton home to the 20-acre resort and found no sign of the Land O'Lakes owners, Michael and Kathleen Cahill.
Gone was the Cahills' camper and the tractors and mowers they used to maintain the campground. The main office at the resort was even emptied — wicker chairs, pictures, refrigerator and all.
"It was like somebody pulled the rug right from beneath us," said Leonard, who had prepaid to use the campground through October. "I was thinking, 'How could they do this?' "
Leonard and dozens of other campers are confused and angry, saying they were duped out of thousands they paid to use the campground this year. They say they haven't been able to contact the Cahills, who live in Land O'Lakes for most of the year but head north to the campground during the spring.
They say bank officials told them last week to leave their belongings at the campground until the matter is resolved and the Cahills are located.
In an effort to recoup their costs — Leonard pays $1,175 to use the campground from April until October, while year-round campers pay a monthly rent — some campers have filed complaints in small-claims court.
"You have a lot of business-class people who don't have $1,200 to sink into that campsite," said Leonard, who filed his complaint Friday.
In Land O'Lakes, no one answered the door Monday at the Cahills' pale yellow house on Lake Joyce Drive in Lake Padgett Estates. A black Ford truck with the words "Ridin Dirty" in the front window sat in the driveway across from a silver sedan.
The couple's company, Cahill Properties LLC, is registered in Wyoming, but the owners list the Ohio resort as their mailing address, records show.
The Cahills purchased the campground for $500,000 in April 2008, according to a story Saturday in the Urbana Daily Citizen.
The Cahills received a 2009 campground license for the 235-campsite property on April 30, which expires on the same date in 2010, the story said.
The couple also failed to pay $4,121.19 in property taxes for 2008, the story said, citing the county treasurer. The amount has not yet been certified as delinquent.
A call to Urbana's Citizens National Bank, which financed the mortgage, wasn't returned Monday.
On its Web site, www.meadowlakeresorts.com, the resort boasts about its 4-acre swimming lake, hiking trails, game room and DJ with live band dances.
For the past year, Leonard, his fiancee and their three children took their 39-foot camper to Meadow Lake. While there, they played mud volleyball, fished and cooked out.
Leonard said they are upset they won't be able to go to the resort this summer.
"Between the tears," he said, "they're wondering what they're going to do."
Melissa Brown, who has used the camp for the past four years with her husband and son, said she spoke with Kathleen Cahill about two weeks ago and was told that Michael Cahill was headed back to Land O'Lakes, leaving his wife in Ohio.
Thinking the couple was splitting up, Brown and other campers made plans to help Kathleen Cahill maintain the property, offering to bring up equipment from their homes.
A friend called her last week saying the Cahills had packed up and left. Brown also filed a complaint in small-claims court.
"No one even bothered to tell us what's going on," she said. "They left us with nothing."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Camille C. Spencer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4609.