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Date of Issue: January 20, 2010

Isle of Man court freezes Byrnesí $1.6 million

U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee Angela Welch Esposito in Tampa apparently never believed that former Anna Maria Island real estate kingpin Robert Byrne was broke.

Byrne at one time displayed a personal financial statement claiming he was worth $40 million. After declaring personal bankruptcy in December 2008, however, Byrne told the bankruptcy court he had only $500 to his name and no money in any checking or savings account. He also told the court he had no overseas assets or bank accounts.

But according to an Isle of Man court record of Dec. 29, 2009, Byrne has not just assets in the British Crown Colony off west Scotland, but a bit more than $500. It’s more like $1,628,978.

On Dec. 29, the court granted lawyers representing Esposito and the Tampa bankruptcy court an injunction that the $1.63 million assets of Robert and Arlene Byrne known to be in the Isle of Man were to be frozen pending the outcome of the U.S. government’s case in the Isle of Man against Byrne.

The Isle of Man court ordered the injunction prohibiting the disposal of assets and required Byrne to give full disclosure information to the court.

The same court gave Byrne an opportunity to respond in a Jan. 11 court session. The proceedings in court that day have not yet been made public, according to an Isle of Man court Web site.

At the Dec. 29 court proceedings, attorneys for the Isle of Man legal firm of Cains Advocates Ltd., on behalf of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa, claimed, according to the court documents, that Byrne had previously “testified under oath [to the Tampa court] that he did not have any functioning bank accounts, had no remaining cash assets, that he had never set up any offshore bank accounts and that no person or entity was holding any property in his behalf.”

Lawyers further alleged that Byrne and his former wife Arlene transferred $3 million to a bank in the Isle of Man as “proceeds from the sale of fraudulently transferred property within one year to the date” of Robert Byrnes’ bankruptcy filing.

From his Isle of Man account, Byrne allegedly transferred money to the FBME Bank in Tanzania in the name of “Nautica,” and to other accounts in the name of Roxeperin LLC and Roxeperin Red Sea Management LLC. Nautica LLC is located in San Jose, Costa Rica, according to the Isle of Man court.

The Tanzania account held $860,570 on July 30, 2009, a date more than one year after Byrne told the court he had no undeclared assets and the U.S. Court had frozen his assets pending completion of his bankruptcy case.

The shares of the Roxeperin companies are owned by Sodol Trust, with the trustee as Southpac Trust Ltd., Rarotonga, Cook Islands, of which Byrne is the settler, according to the court report.

Arlene Byrne, through her company Cheracol, received $697,000 as her share of the $3 million.

In addition, Byrne moved a portion of the $3 million to Friends Provident International Ltd., Royal Court, Castletown, Isle of Man.

Cains lawyers alleged that Byrne has “lied under oath in the U.S. Bankruptcy case and related matters and proceedings and claimed these accounts and assets did not exist.”

Attorneys concluded their argument by claiming that Byrne “deliberately removed and transferred” the assets, in violation of his sworn statements and U.S. law.
Efforts to reach either Robert or Arlene Byrne for comment were unsuccessful. Efforts to reach attorney Richard Lee in Tampa, the last known legal counsel for Byrne, also were unsuccessful.

Robert’s brother, Richard Byrne, who now lives in Massachusetts, said he has had no contact with his brother for the past five years.

“The last I heard, he was living in Chicago,” Richard Byrne said.

The last known address of Robert Byrne is 100 W. Washington Blvd., No. 302, Chicago.

 

Byrne, GSR have clouded Island past

Robert Byrne and financial partner Steve Noriega were principals in GSR Development LLC, a company that began buying Island-area real estate in 2000-01.

At one time, the company had plans for the Villa Rosa gated subdivision in Anna Maria and the Rosa del Mar condominium complex in Bradenton Beach, in addition to development plans for nearly 30 other Island properties.

The duo managed to convince a number of Island residents to invest in GSR and backed those investments with a personal guarantee, primarily from Byrne.

Byrne declared he had a net worth of $40 million, while Noriega’s financial statement indicated he was worth about $33 million.

Among the investors were Island residents Kent and Pa Davis, Mel and Carol Yudofsky and Tampa resident Paul Galizzi. Davis invested nearly $600,000 with GSR, but was able to get all but about $135,000 returned.

The Yudofskys reportedly had $385,000 invested with GSR, with the investment personally guaranteed by Byrne.

Galizzi held the general contractor’s license for the operations and Byrne and Noriega agreed he would be the lead contractor on Villa Rosa and Rosa del Mar. Galizzi also became a minority shareholder in GSR.

But at a time when Island real estate was booming, the company never developed any of its projects. GSR did refinance a number of properties at a time when Island real estate values boomed. At one time, GSR and/or Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega owned 33 properties on Anna Maria Island.

GSR built but did not complete a model home at Villa Rosa in Anna Maria and NBA player Theo Ratliff made a $175,000 deposit to purchase the home, but the house was never certified for occupancy. The house has since been purchased by a Lakeland couple.

 Amid reports of rampant personal spending by Byrne, including a $60,000 bracelet to a girlfriend along with a leased Mercedes for her, GSR declared bankruptcy in July 2006.

GSR reported a total of $5.6 million in unsecured debts to the bankruptcy court.

Robert and Arlene Byrne divorced in 2007, but according to the Isle of Man court record, they concealed the $1.6 million in the Isle of Man through shell companies.

Unable to recover their investments because Byrne claimed he was broke, Davis and Yudofsky forced Byrne into personal bankruptcy in December 2007.

The Byrnes’ Isle of Man assets and those in other foreign countries were never declared in either the personal bankruptcy or the divorce, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court officials.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials along with Internal Revenue Service and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators attended many of the Byrne bankruptcy proceedings in 2008, but declined to comment on their reason for attending.

The public information office of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa also declined to comment.

Information officer Steve Cole said in late 2008 that he could neither “confirm nor deny” the existence of any investigation of Byrne.

After his divorce, Byrne reportedly moved to Chicago and married a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. The couple planned to move to New Mexico, according to an online account of their wedding.