TAMPA — State fraud investigators have issued an order barring the University Village retirement community from signing up new tenants amid a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged financial irregularities.
The Office of Insurance Regulation issued an initial order of suspension Friday after investigators received a tip Jan. 21 that the community's reserve account had been underfunded by $370,324.
The office said that when an examiner showed up Wednesday to look into the claim, employees, on instruction from supervisors, refused to hand over records.
University Village, at 12401 N 22nd St., offers apartments for retirees, assisted living units and rehabilitative and long-term skilled nursing care. It houses about 470 residents.
"The order I signed today begins the process of stopping new enrollment, with the ultimate goal of finding a management team that is qualified under Florida law and will make sure the current and future residents of University Village are well cared for," Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said.
The 11-page order, sent electronically to the community's attorneys and chief executive Tim Parker, alleges eight violations.
In addition to the underfunded reserve account — required for on-site repairs and emergencies — the order alleges that BMV Management, a limited partner with majority owner Westport Holdings Tampa L.P., failed to tell state regulators about the background of BMV co-owner John Bartle in disclosure forms to the state.
Authorities say Bartle was involved last year in a bankrupt assisted living facility in Omaha, Neb., called Skyline Manor Inc., and now, along with his wife, Rebecca Bartle, he is involved in running University Village.
"The persons in charge of providing continuing care for University Village, John and Rebecca Bartle, have not produced evidence of being reputable and of responsible character," the order said.
Although barred from signing new tenants, the 160-employee company continues to operate, and it remained open for business Friday afternoon.
Westport Holdings and BVM have 21 days to appeal the order to an administrative law judge. Failing to do so may result in a permanent order of suspension, essentially revoking Westport's license to run the facility.
Calls to John Bartle and Parker were not returned Friday.
Jeffrey A. Wendel, the controller for BVM Management in Fishers, Ind., denied any financial irregularities had occurred and said BVM will appeal the order. An annual audit is set to begin Monday.
"All information required under the statute has been disclosed," Wendel said. "There is not a shortage of funds."
Additionally, he said John Bartle is not an owner but an employee of the 65-year-old nonprofit company.
"The (Office of Insurance Regulation) has filed the complaint based on information that is not factual and the complaint will be contested," he said.
Contact Rich Shopes at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110. Follow @richshopes.