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Mirabilis Ventures Inc., an obscure Orlando-based equity firm that burst on the Orlando scene in 2005 and bought up dozens of assorted businesses before shuttering most operations in the wake of an IRS criminal investigation, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday.

The company, already in the midst of numerous lawsuits with creditors and former company executives, filed a Chapter 11 petition to reorganize. Documents list between 100 and 199 creditors and $50million to $100million in both estimated assets and liabilities.

The move comes a month after the federal government seized $13.3million in real estate from Mirabilis and its former chief strategist, Frank L. Amodeo, in a civil-forfeiture action alleging theft, tax fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

No criminal charges have been filed.

That forfeiture action said that Amodeo, Mirabilis and related companies bought three Orlando residences and several buildings and tracts in other states with proceeds from nearly $182million in payroll taxes stolen from payroll-processing firms they controlled since October 2004.

"The civil-forfeiture actions effectively prevented the company from liquidating assets," said Mirabilis' bankruptcy attorney, Elizabeth Green. "The goal is to get as many assets as possible and distribute them to the government and to those creditors of Mirabilis."

Mirabilis has been in the liquidation mode for the past seven months. It shuttered most of its 70 companies and laid off scores of workers after federal prosecutors notified top company officials in December 2006 that they were under criminal investigation.

Last fall, Mirabilis filed suit against former employees and companies it acquired, while also settling debts it owed. The company said it was trying to recover $220million it had lost and promised to use collected proceeds to pay the IRS debts.

Among the largest Mirabilis creditors and the amounts they seek are: First Commercial Insurance Corp. of Miami Lakes, $8.4million for workers compensation coverage; former payroll-outsourcing and employee-leasing company executives and owners John Burcham of Fort Lauderdale, $2.5million, and Kenneth and Diane Hendricks of Beloit, Wis., $2.8million; and several attorneys who claim they are owed more than $208,000.

Seventy-six Mirabilis Class B stockholders — most former employees and executives — also are listed as creditors.

But noticeably absent from the stockholder list was Amodeo. A 2005 financial statement filed as evidence in an unrelated suit listed him as owning 24,000 Class A shares valued at $38.7million.

Another Nevada company in which Mirabilis holds a 90percent interest, Hoth Holdings LLC, also filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in Orlando. It estimated both assets and liabilities of $1million to $10million.

Earlier Tuesday, Mirabilis President Jodi Jaiman, Vice President Shane Williams and Secretary-Treasurer Jay Stollenwerk all resigned. Bankruptcy liquidation specialist Michael Moecker remained as the lone board member and hired R.W. "Bill" Cuthill Jr. as Mirabilis' president, Cuthill said.

Cuthill, a former certified public accountant from Maitland, may be best known as the bankruptcy trustee on the Evergreen Security Ltd. case. He helped recover nearly $21million of $190million in claims against the Orlando company and its once-fraudulent operations.

Cuthill specializes in large, securities-fraud cases, but does not know whether misconduct is involved with Mirabilis.

He said he plans to hire accountants to sift through 220 pallets of Mirabilis records.

Moecker and Cuthill both are well-known in local bankruptcy courts and state courts and have no connection to Amodeo, Green said.

Amodeo, 47, of Orlando, began assembling restaurant, construction, payroll-outsourcing and other companies under the Mirabilis name in 2005. He was little known until three security contractors working for him — two from the Orlando area — were detained while working for a client in Africa in May 2006.

In July 2006, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Amodeo was a disbarred Georgia bankruptcy lawyer who served time in federal prison for fraud in the 1990s.

His spokesman, Bob O'Malley, said Tuesday that Amodeo will work with the bankruptcy attorney and the government to "make full payment of the payroll taxes."

Tuesday's filing will stop any new lawsuits filed against Mirabilis and instead make them claims in the bankruptcy case. Suits Mirabilis files against others will continue in the courts, Cuthill said.

"I will look and see if [reoganization] is a possibility," Cuthill said. "The direction of the company before this filing was liquidating the company."

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-mirabilis2808may28,0,6664046.story
 

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I don't understand why, even after the big corporate scandals of 2002/03 that companies like this would continue to commit fraud and other nonsense. Don't these companies realize that they will get caught sooner or later? I guess not...they're too money and power hungry to realize that...
 
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