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Ex-Commissioner Kevin White lands 'unusual' mortgage

TAMPA — He is upside down on loans for the last house he called home. Last month, a bank filed notice it intends to foreclose on an investment property his company owns. And lawyers are after him for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid legal fees.

So how did former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White manage to secure a mortgage for yet another house last year just after he lost his elected job and main source of income?

He got it from the owner of some of the cab and transport companies he used to help regulate before leaving office in November. It's a transaction real estate professionals describe as peculiar.

"This is a very unusual mortgage," said Mitch Cochran, owner of Bay Lending Corp. in St. Petersburg, who oversees hundreds of mortgages annually and reviewed publicly available records about White's loan and home purchase.

White, 46, a Democrat, was resoundingly defeated in his re-election bid to the County Commission last year after a federal civil jury's ruling that he sexually harassed a former aide. He left office in November, losing his $90,000 annual salary.

The next month he and his wife, Jennie, a nurse, purchased a $143,300, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Riverview. Records show the only mortgage on the property, for $91,100, was provided by Moses Investment Holdings, a limited liability corporation formed in 2009.

The only listed officer for the company is Michael J. Moses. Moses is part owner of two cab companies, a limousine operator and van service, all regulated by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which decides who gets permits to operate cars for hire.

White served seven years on the agency as a representative of the County Commission and, before that, the Tampa City Council. He spent the past four years as its chairman.

The loan to White is the only mortgage Moses Investment Holdings has ever recorded in Hillsborough County. Neither he nor White returned repeated phone calls this week and last.

Mario Tamargo, a spokesman for the Public Transportation Commission, said he is aware of no special favors White did or could have done for Moses or his businesses while serving with the agency.

"Everything that was done here was done aboveboard," Tamargo said.

Agency records show Moses formed taxi, van and limo services, all under the name Bay and Beach, in 2009 with Nancy Castellano, a former longtime executive with United Cab. The next year he became an officer with ABC Taxi, which Castellano owned.

Together they hold permits to operate 21 cabs, three vans and seven limousines. Castellano did not return a phone call for comments.

Bay and Beach taxi and limo service got into business in Hills­borough County by acquiring other companies and their permits without the need for votes by the seven-member PTC board.

Tamargo said companies change hands routinely, with the PTC staff approving the transfers so long as the principals and their drivers pass criminal background checks and show they have the financial means to operate.

A review of PTC minutes showed White did vote with other board members in January 2010 to grant Bay and Beach's limo service two additional limo permits. He left the board in November with his election defeat.

Mortgage specialists who reviewed the loan Moses entered with White the following month described it as an oddity. First, the mortgage must be repaid within five years, not the typical 15 or 30. Within that time, the Whites are entitled to borrow up to $182,200 from Moses all told.

No interest rate is listed, and it is not specified whether it is fixed or variable. There is no repayment schedule included.

"I can tell you, I have closed 3,500 mortgages in my career, and I've never seen a mortgage like that," said Andy Wood, a mortgage loan originator with American Mortgage Services in Tampa. "That's how unusual it is."

He said the open-ended nature of the loan was particularly strange, a view shared by Cochran.

The mortgage was prepared by the Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen law firm in Tampa. Partner Ellen Macfarlane, listed as the person who prepared it, declined to comment.

Told of White's already heavy debt load, Wood said it is hard to imagine how he could secure a new mortgage. Under new state laws, mortgage providers are required to verify incomes and a person's ability to repay the loan. That includes private companies that are not banks, Wood said.

The Whites have declared their new Riverview home their primary residence. As of December 2009, they still owed $305,000 on their former residence they still own in Seminole Heights, according to White's last public disclosure report as an elected official.

In February, another lender filed notice that it intends to foreclose on a rental house in Seminole Heights that the couple owns through a company.

His last disclosure report also lists $60,000 in other debts, including $30,000 from credit cards. The county is attempting to get him to contribute something toward its defense of him in the 2009 sexual harassment suit, and his own attorneys in the case say he still owes them $140,000.

Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com. John Martin can be reached at (813) 226-3372 or jmartin@sptimes.com.

Ex-Commissioner Kevin White lands 'unusual' mortgage 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 12:43am]
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