Cory Lake Isles residents sue developer for fraud


Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

By Dong-Phuong Nguyen

Published June 28, 2008


An attorney representing 20 Cory Lake Isles residents says he filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit Court today, accusing Developer Gene Thomason of using homeowner's association fees to pay for things like a motor for a relative's boat, to install a well on his property and for brick pavers at the Cory Lake Isles Professional Center, which Thomason owns. 

According to court documents, residents have paid about $4.6 million over five years for operation and maintenance of the upscale, gated community, but they believe some of the money was used for Thomason's personal items and pet projects.

Lawyer Mark Basurto said his clients came to that conclusion based on more than 15,000 pages of documents that they received from Cory Lakes Ltd. and the Property Owner's Association, which eight residents sued last year for records. 

The documents were "grossly inadequate," and a "complete mess," Basurto said. There were receipts for items not listed in ledgers, and items recorded on ledgers but no receipts.

What they were able to decipher from it was telling, he added.

The lawsuit states that POA money was spent on items like:
* $3,400 for a boat motor
* $6,700 to have a well installed on Thomason's property
* $4,500 for brick pavers at the Cory Lake Isles Professional Center, which is located outside of the community and is owned by Thomason.
* Employees of Cory Lakes Ltd. were given holiday bonuses ranging between $100 to $1,000

Basurto also noted that residents were required to pay for a Canary Island date palm on their property when they moved in, yet POA money was used to pay for them.

"I think there is a couple million dollars out of the five years worth of assessments that we have no idea what has been done with the money," Basurto said.

The lawsuit names: Thomason; his wife Betty; his son Cory; Cory Lakes Ltd.; Cory Lakes Isles Realty Co.; Cory Lakes Isles Professional Center; Northeast Development Company; Suzanne Manzi and Jane Taggart, two current taxing district supervisors; and Judy Tagliarino.

Gene Thomason did not return a call for comment.

Manzi, who is currently running for re-election on the taxing district board against two of the plaintiffs, called it a smear campaign.

“If you want to talk about who is creating negative things in this community, it’s these people,” she said. “They can’t run on record, so they’re going to try to defame who the possibly can. They have reached the point where they are a joke.”

The residents filing the lawsuit are: Mark Lee, Dan Morford, Curtis Perry, Marc Chambers, Andrea Tullo, Scott Shaw, Herbert Reigle, John Harders, Kerri Ringhof, Alecia Collins, Haresh Ramphal, Carole Fotopoulos, Bruce Vitale, Tom Wegge, Vicki Castro, Marshall Chernin, Jorge Castillo, Frank Bacon, James Dugas and Donn Spalding.