Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Alligator

PORT CHARLOTTE — Jeffrey J. Lauro put almost all the pieces together to build as many as 1,400 condominiums and single-family homes in Charlotte and Sarasota counties during the real estate boom, say people who did business with the 37-year-old entrepreneur.

Lauro also had plans to build an assisted-living center and a Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant, and to refurbish an 18-hole golf course on the border of Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

"His plans made sense," said John Kingston, a Lake Suzy mortgage broker who helped assemble building lots for Lauro. "If he had gone through with them, he would be worth tens of millions of dollars today."

Instead, Lauro is facing criminal charges in Charlotte County for allegedly stealing $198,000 through a construction loan scheme. Two of his companies are in bankruptcy with debts that could amount to more than $20 million.

In one of the bankruptcy cases," 177 investors from England, Scotland and Ireland
are claiming that Lauro took their deposits totaling more than $6 million and never brought the homes and condos he promised out of the ground.

"It doesn't make sense why he didn't follow through," Kingston said. "He had the sales. The Europeans loved his ideas. He just took their money."

Lauro could not be reached for comment. When his criminal attorney, Jason Goldman, was asked whether Lauro would talk about his various real estate deals, Goldman said "absolutely not.

Herald Tribune

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