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Tampa judge releases ailing slumlord Steven Green from prison

Notorious Tampa landlord Steven Green has been released from prison after serving less than a quarter of his 33-month sentence.

Green, 44, suffers from advanced dementia following a hit-and-run accident 21/2 years ago. Federal prosecutors say his health is deteriorating fast.

Those physical and cognitive problems are expected to last for the rest of Green's life and create what prosecutors said is an extraordinary and compelling reason warranting his release.

Green can't even hold a simple conversation, said his attorney, Edward Kratt of New York.

"He's responsive to questions and directions, but his responses when I last spoke with him are not what you would call normal responses," Kratt said Wednesday. "He's just not there."

In 2006, Green was sentenced to 33 months in prison and 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to using a false Social Security number in a multimillion-dollar bank scam and failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars of income.

But in May 2007, weeks before he was to report to prison, Green was struck by a hit-and-run driver after leaving a Hell's Kitchen nightclub in New York. He had left Posh, a bar known in the neighborhood as "the Gay Cheers," and was preparing to get into his Rolls-Royce when a black Ford Crown Victoria with tinted windows hit him.

Green emerged from a coma after 40 days but could not run his real estate empire, walk without help or care for himself.

No arrests have been made in the hit-and-run, nor have any suspects been identified, New York police Detective Martin Speechley said. If a suspect is arrested, he or she could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident and, if Green were to die from his injuries, vehicular manslaughter.

On May 14, Green was flown by air ambulance to the Federal Medical Center near Rochester, Minn., to begin his prison sentence. The facility provides specialized medical and mental health care to more than 1,000 male inmates.

Because of Green's deteriorating health, Kratt said he applied for what's known as a "compassionate release." That triggered a review by the federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In court pleadings, prosecutors said Green suffered multiple, severe brain traumas and facial, skull and limb fractures. He can swallow and breathe on his own but otherwise has "lost all ability to perform any of his activities of daily living," they said. His prognosis is poor.

Green was released Friday, the same day U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew signed an order reducing his prison sentence to time served. Prosecutors say Green will live with his mother, a retired nurse, in Clinton Corners, N.Y.

Despite his release, he will remain on probation.

In his heyday, Green was an investor, movie producer and philanthropist who flew to meetings in a Cessna jet and had mansions in Tampa, Nantucket, Mass., and Hyde Park, N.Y.

But he also earned a reputation as a slumlord, and was once named one of the 10 worst landlords in New York City.

Just north of Tampa, Green's Amberwood Apartments racked up the largest code enforcement fines in the history of Hillsborough County. After a fire, officials shut down the 212-unit complex, displacing dozens of tenants. Green walked away from the property after Wells Fargo foreclosed on his mortgage.

Green pleaded guilty in 2006 to using a phony Social Security number in his application for a $9.04 million loan to buy the Amberwood complex, and to failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2001, when his personal income exceeded $3.1 million.

Bucklew ordered Green to pay $4.11 million in restitution, the loss taken by Wells Fargo after it sold the Amberwood Apartments.

While under investigation by federal officials, Green sold off about $100 million worth of his Tampa-area apartments in 2006. After his conviction, his restitution payments were spotty even as a Nantucket home was transferred to his mother and a Fort Lauderdale home, a jet and 11 luxury autos owned by Green were sold in 2008.

Although Green reported a net worth of $77 million when sentenced, by the early part of this year, he had made just a little more than a third of the restitution, about $1.51 million.

In a motion on the question of his release, Wells Fargo said it had not received a restitution payment since September 2008. The bank also said Green's representatives have not responded to written requests for information about assets discussed at a court hearing in April.

Executives at Green's real estate company have said the recession and deflated real estate market made it impossible to liquidate Green's holdings profitably, partly because Green had taken on so much debt. At one point several years ago, Green held $222 million in assets, including 24 apartment complexes, but they were encumbered by $209 million in mortgages.

By April, Green's attorneys said his assets had dwindled to an art collection worth perhaps $250,000. The lawyers said Green's mother would need all her assets, including the $1.4 million Nantucket home transferred to her, to pay for her son's care since he would never again earn a living for himself.

"I don't think there are any business assets that exist at this time to pay restitution," Kratt said. "Any private assets of Mr. Green's have been pledged in principle to Wells Fargo."

But, as Green's private attorney, Kratt said he didn't know what personal assets remain or what steps have taken place to earmark them for restitution.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Tampa judge releases ailing slumlord Steven Green from prison 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:59pm]
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