Lawsuits: Mirabilis Failed To Pay Up


---Lawsuits: Mirabilis failed to pay up
---The business is accused of owing millions for loans or investments.
---Jerry W. Jackson and Jim Leusner
---Sentinel Staff Writers

---March 27, 2007

---Mirabilis Ventures Inc., the high-profile Orlando business under a grand-jury investigation, has defaulted on millions of dollars in promised payments for loans or investments, according to lawsuits filed recently in Alabama and Florida.

---The private-equity company, which has been retrenching in recent months, failed to pay more than $2 million by Feb. 1 for The Hancock Group LLC, a professional employer organization in Gadsden, Ala., according to a suit filed by four businessmen in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on March 8.

---A week later, a Seminole County businessman, Mark A. Lang, sued Mirabilis in state Circuit Court in Orlando, contending that the private-equity company defaulted on a $1.25 million promissory note.

---Dan Cence, a spokesman for Mirabilis, said last week he could not comment on any litigation. He also declined to identify any current officers or directors of the company, which during the past year has boasted that it owned or had a stake in as many as 70 businesses and employed hundreds of people in downtown Orlando.

---Mirabilis, which once talked of building a global business network, had begun raising its local profile last year through Orlando Magic sponsorships, big ads and pledges to charity. The company has said it often buys distressed companies and inherits problems that it then tries to resolve.

---Frank L. Amodeo, a local private-equity investor, is a defendant alongside Mirabilis in the Alabama suit, which contends that Amodeo and Mirabilis, after persuading Hancock's owners to sell the company and some related operations in February 2006, damaged the business through "gross mismanagement and a raiding of the company coffers."

---Amodeo owns AQMI Strategy Corp. of Orlando and was a key early investor in, and a consultant to, Mirabilis.

---The lawsuit alleges that, during the past year, "over the protests of the plaintiffs, THG [The Hancock Group] accounts payable have been shifted from the local office in Gadsden, Ala., to the corporate office of Mirabilis in Orlando, Florida.

---"Despite the fact that over a million dollars have been transferred from the operating accounts of THG in recent months, amounts of which are more than sufficient to meet the operating needs of THG, those accounts payable have fallen into disarray."

---The suit also alleges that utilities at the company offices were turned off on multiple occasions, vendors and employer taxes were not being paid, and the business apparently had been "sold to another parent corporation without any prior notice or consent of the plaintiffs."

---A professional employer association, or PEO, handles payroll, employee benefits and workers' compensation for other companies.

---While Amodeo's name is not on the Feb. 21, 2006, purchase agreement or any other documents included with The Hancock Group lawsuit, Phillip Williams Jr., the lawyer representing the four Alabama businessmen, said this week that he deems Amodeo's role so central to the deal and subsequent operations that he considers him the de facto "owner and operator" of Mirabilis.

---"In my opinion, he leads, guides and directs Mirabilis," Williams said, and as a result Amodeo was named individually as party to the suit. He said that, if the assertion is wrong, "they can prove it in court."

---A Mirabilis spokesman said late last year that Amodeo's stake in the private-equity company had been bought out and that he never had been an officer or director. But he continued to serve the company as a consultant, the spokesman said.

---The local breach-of-contract suit filed by Lang, the Seminole County businessman, alleges that Mirabilis defaulted on a $1.25 million promissory note Feb. 23.

---Lang, of Longwood, referred questions about the March 16 suit to his lawyer, Mitchell B. Grodman, but Grodman declined to comment other than to say the balloon payment was a "business debt."

---Mirabilis and other companies with ties to Amodeo are also battling lawsuits on other fronts.

---In Tampa, Mirabilis is a defendant in a recent case brought by investors in the proposed Trump Tower condo project, seeking repayment of deposits and contending that the project is too far behind schedule to meet deadlines.

---And in Nebraska, five owners of a group of PEO companies filed suit last month against a Nevada company that they say defaulted on a $4.5 million deal to buy the businesses.

---The owners of Alliance Compensation and Benefits Group and three related entities sued Wellington Capital Group in federal court in Omaha for breach of contract. The suit alleges that Wellington paid only half the money from the July 2006 deal and defaulted on promissory notes to individual owners.

---Court documents and the plaintiffs' lawyer, John Passarelli, identify Frank L. Amodeo of Orlando as the "authorized agent." Florida corporation records also list Amodeo as an officer in Wellington Capital Group, chartered in Nevada in 2003.

---"He acted as an agent for Wellington," Passarelli said of Amodeo. "He signed documents on behalf of Wellington."

---Amodeo's and AQMI's low profiles in Orlando were raised suddenly last May when two AQMI employees were detained, but later released without charges, while on a security assignment in the Congo.

---Mirabilis later sought to boost its corporate image with a public-relations push that included an agreement to be the Orlando Magic's "presenting sponsor" for the 2006-07 NBA season.

---Earlier this month, the Sentinel reported that a federal grand jury in Orlando was investigating Mirabilis and some related human-resource and payroll-processing companies.

---A grand-jury subpoena obtained by the Sentinel showed that federal prosecutors had sought records from clients who had contracted since 2004 with payroll companies affiliated with Mirabilis and its various entities.

---Harrison "Butch" Slaughter, Amodeo's lawyer, said he would not comment on any litigation or investigation. He said earlier this month that he has turned over hundreds of thousands of corporate documents subpoenaed by prosecutors.

---On Saturday, an unidentified Mirabilis Ventures employee and several workers removed computers and several boxes of records from an office at 5750 Major Blvd. in Orlando. They declined to comment to a reporter.

---Mirabilis and its entities have continued reorganizing and consolidating in recent weeks. In late February, Mirabilis employees left company quarters in the AmSouth tower on Orange Avenue in Orlando. A former company spokesman said at the time that the workers had moved down the street to offices in SunTrust Center as part of a planned consolidation.

---The company has acknowledged laying off several dozen workers at the beginning of the year, and according to Cence has been selling or closing underperforming firms while nurturing the profitable ones.

---Efforts to reach any local legal representatives of Mirabilis in recent days have been unsuccessful.

---A Fort Lauderdale law firm that represented Mirabilis in a breach-of-contract suit against another company last summer in state Circuit Court in Orlando filed a motion to withdraw from the case Feb. 27. "I have no idea what's going on with the company," said Richard Berman, a partner in the firm of Berman, Kean & Riguera.

---Lawrence Haber, an Orlando-area entertainment lawyer who also has been associated with the company in the past, said last week that he no longer does any work for Mirabilis but could not comment further.

---Jerry W. Jackson can be reached at [email][/email] or 407-420-5721. Jim Leusner can be reached at [email][/email] or 407-420-

Recommended Posts :


Post a Comment - Back to Content

:)) ;)) ;;) :D ;) :p :(( :) :( :X =(( :-o :-/ :-* :| 8-} :)] ~x( :-t b-( :-L x( =))