Friday, February 25, 2011

How 14 mortgage fraud indictments came down (w/video)

The story: Fourteen people, including two Bradenton residents, were charged today in a large-scale mortgage fraud conspiracy involving more than $47 million in loans and 22 residential properties.

How it happened: The defendants allegedly falsified documents to nearly 12 local banks and private mortgage lenders to obtain loans.
They allegedly falsified the real seller and buyer in the property transactions, the real purchase price and the buyer actual income, assets and liabilities.

When it occurred: Over a span of 10 years, from October 1997-March 2008.

Local players: Bradenton residents charged in the case include Jeffrey T. Berghorn, 46, who bought and sold homes in Sarasota with two others charged in the scheme and Lisa R. Rotolo, 47, who was a title agent and owner of Diamond Title in Sarasota. She worked alongside another defendant charged in the case.

Here's my first posting from today's breaking news, as U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight announced the charges in Sarasota. Check out a copy of the indictment here, and a more detailed report will publish in Saturday's Bradenton Herald. Below is Paul Videla's video from the announcements:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sign of the health care times

Blake Medical Center's plans to acquire Bradenton-based Pinnacle Medical Group as reported today is a sign of where the health care industry is heading: mergers.

During a Manatee Chamber of Commerce seminar on health care reform in September, local professionals pinpointed the impact the Obama Administration would have on health care. Mergers among hospitals, physician groups and specialized health care providers were among the biggest forthcoming impacts chamber officials discussed.

As Jonathan Fleece, a board-certified health care attorney at Blalock Walters, explained then and again to me Friday, health care reform is going to make claim reimbursements to the industry more complex.
Claims are currently paid individually to each health care provider involved in a patient's care. Health care reform says bundle those payments and let the businesses in the industry work out who is owed what for patient care services.

Blake Medical Center CEO Daniel Friedrich said health care reform played a part in the merger with Pinnacle and explained the partnership will allow Blake and Pinnacle to focus more on patient care rather than sorting out payment deliveries.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

See Riverwalk renderings at Farmers' Market

The Bradenton Farmers' Market this season has seen growth in vendors and consumers, as reported in today's Bradenton Herald. The market's organizers credit some of that to scheduling events each Saturday that coincide with the market that runs from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

This Saturday, officials from Downtown Development Authority and Realize Bradenton will share artist renderings of the proposed Riverwalk design, says Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton.

Designs proposed for the 1.5-mile stretch of the Riverwalk from just east of the Green Bridge past Manatee Memorial Hospital include building a skate park, a family fun zone, an interactive foundation and open lawn space.

The project has an estimated price tag of $6.2 million and will go before the Bradenton City Council next Wednesday for further discussion.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bradenton's new tourism leadership getting results

Debbie Meihls has been plenty busy since joining the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, reported here in August.

She hit the ground running when hired as executive manager with a fresh perspective on how to market Anna Maria Island and Manatee County. Much of her approach, derived from her marketing role with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater tourism bureau, is cooperative marketing.

And local tourism officials on Monday said Meihls' strategy is a success as reported in today's Bradenton Herald.

"I have a direct marketing background and marketing has to be results-driven," said David Teitelbaum, a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council. "It's a pleasure to see the money we're spending is being spent correctly."

 A recent cooperative marketing project led by Meihls includes the Manatee County edition of "Florida Travel + Life's Affordable Luxury" series.  The 30-minute television spot features Anna Maria Island and cost $85,000. As part of the deal, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureua will also get the rights to the B-roll video that includes footage of local beaches, Bridge Street, Village of the Arts and Lakewood Ranch to use in future marketing projects. And, Florida Travel + Life magazine this month has a four-page spread on Manatee County and its tourism ammenities.

"We are so thankful St. Pete let her get away," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton CVB. "She's doing some incredible things."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good decisions, family values help local business

Small business owners are working harder than ever to survive these tough times. As the small business feature in Wednesday's Bradenton Herald illustrates, brothers Bob and Rocky Smith have had to do a lot of retooling to keep Universal Window Solutions afloat and competitive.

During my interview with the local business owners Tuesday, Rocky Smith said, "We've worked harder in the last four years than we have in the last 20 years."

Much of today's story focused on the business decisions the Smiths made that allowed Universal Window Solutions to pull through the recession. But it's important to add that family values and relationships have played a big part in the success of Universal Window Solutions, which was incorporated in 1981.

Rocky Smith purchased the business in 1999, and Bob Smith joined the business in 2001.

"We grew up understanding the value of a dollar," Rocky Smith said. "That has truly helped us."

Bob and Rocky's parents, both manufacturing representatives, taught them that value, as well as some good sales and business tactics the brothers have been able to carry into their own business.

"Our parents would be on the phone with clients and you'd be eavesdropping not really knowing you're eavesdropping," Bob Smith recalled. "It helped us see there's a lot of skill in understanding the sales process. It's not easy -- it's a very difficult process."