• Report: #861743

Complaint Review: Martin Barry Strudwick

  • Submitted: Fri, March 30, 2012
  • Updated: Thu, January 03, 2013

  • Reported By: GrapeStomp — United States of America
Martin Barry Strudwick
12 East Eager Street, Baltimore, Maryland United States of America

Martin Barry Strudwick, Strudwick Wealth Strategies Inc. Costa Rica land fraud, embezzlement, financial fraud, misappropriation of funds Baltimore, Maryland

*Consumer Comment: Picking up the pieces

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: SEC and Lawsuits

*Consumer Comment: Barry Strudwick is a scam artist!

*Consumer Comment: personal response to the report

*Consumer Comment: this complaint is sour grapes

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: Barry's Response to the Anonymous Lies & Innuendoes

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Martin Barry Strudwick, along with William Ramirez (Developer) and Fernando Alfaro (Sales Director) have promoted real estate sales and development along the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica since 2003. Under the guidance of "Don Barry" (Mr. Strudwick), they purchased and parcelled off land for various real estate development projects and promoted them heavily to North American clients via "gatherings" and investment seminars in the United States and Canada.

With some success, they were able to partially build and sell some of the homes, lots and condos within their community, until the downturn in the real estate market of 2008. With partially built infrastructure and lacking any real estate management experience, they proceeded to misappropriate funds from the home owner's association that was comprised of the purchasers who bought into Don Barry's twisted nightmare. [continued below]....

For over 4 years, irregularities and mishandling of funds, maintenance, security, taxes and employee payments have continued with zero accountability to the tune of over $1 million dollars at the time of writing. Lack of building maintenance has caused owners tens of thousands of dollars in damages. With no insurance or taxes paid over the past four years and general neglect, Barry has been able to weather the real estate storm, diverting these home owner association funds to his own staff, projects and pastimes.

Further investigation of Barry Strudwick's business dealings and former partners and clients has revealed a wake of misery following Barry's every step. Stories of broken promises, lawsuits, negligence, over extended credit are repeated in every sentence. Some even described him as a pyschopath, h*ll bent on robbing those who trusted his slick sales pitch. He continues his lies and deceit, hoping to snare more clients in order to pay off older clients and his mounting debts. His business model is a pyramid scheme and he's struggling to find clients to buy his brand of bullsh*t.

Many who purchased property, condos or homes from Barry do not understand the Spanish language and legal framework in Costa Rica from which he operates. This allows him to obsure his dealings and leave his clients bewildered and confused. Through a maze of layered companies (he has nearly 50 registered in his name alone) he has weaved a blanket of obscurity, insulating him from even the most persistent creditors and clients. Many of his customers do not even know that their 'purchase' was never legally transferred to them under the laws of Costa Rica. This news 'shocks' Barry for every client that brings it to his attention and proceeds to blame William Ramirez for this oversight. Shameful conduct from someone who is entrusted with peoples retirement funds.

As investments, his real estate developments have a terrible record, losing over 40% of their value, yet he continues to promote these failing assets. To add insult to injury, his staff control the home owner associations and further missappropriate funds for his own benefit and to curry favor with those investors who are becoming impatient. He ignores those original investors and continues to beat down their investments to fill his own pockets.

Municipal offices and courthouses have dockets of cases against his local cronie William Ramirez who is well known and well loathed due to non payment of suppliers, contractors and employees in the area. But with Barry controlling the purse strings and embezzling the funds, William is left holding the bag as the token local.

If you have investments or business dealings with Barry Strudwick, then you are one of the unfortunate ones. Some of his clients still hold out hope for just getting back to even, but doing so will be on the backs of new investors who fail to heed this warning.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 03/30/2012 10:36 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Martin-Barry-Strudwick/Baltimore-Maryland-21202/Martin-Barry-Strudwick-Strudwick-Wealth-Strategies-Inc-Costa-Rica-land-fraud-embezzleme-861743. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Consumer Comment

Picking up the pieces

AUTHOR: parklane - (USA)

Barry Strudwick ended up taking my money and leaving me with a BIG headache and it is a living nightmare. I'm left with a completely unfinished condo years after it being purchased. It is a shell; missing drywall, full of bat droppings, no kitchen, no appliances, broken windows and yet I paid full price for what should have been a finished condo years ago. He refuses to honor our contractual agreement and I'm left in limbo with the Costa Rican legal system.

I understand other owners who had finished units have sold their units at over half the original value due to all the irregularities in the project. Even if I wanted to finish the unit and sell it I cannot as there is no way to run electricity to my condo. Barry and his construction team failed to install the proper electrical infrastructure and doubled up some condos on the same meter and others like mine were left with no electrical connections.

There's no "sour grapes" as other's have stated.

This was a deliberate attempt by Barry and his cronies to defraud trusting real estate purchasers.

Even when I move one step forward it is another two steps back. After finally securing possession to my condo unit, I was faced with a substantial bill of outstanding condo association fees and delinquent property taxes. It was another slap in the face from someone whom I trusted.

At one point Barry and his team would rent out the finished condo's of absent owners and pocket the money. The owners would then arrive at their condo with broken appliances and missing articles. I find that behavior outlandish. But that's Barry. Anything for a buck.

Too bad more people who shared their own stories about Barry with me haven't come forward. I wish I knew then what I knew now. 

Do not invest a dollar with Barry as he will take you for a long unpleasant ride and your money will be in his pocket.


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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

SEC and Lawsuits

AUTHOR: Making Lemonade - (United States of America)

Follow the money trail. It leads to Barry's pocket and to his benefit. Barry Strudwick has been caught breaking SEC rules. Barry's Costa Rican companies are facing lawsuits and judicial orders. This is public record. Claiming otherwise is pure folly and misdirection. Those who bought into his real estate investments are way underwater with no end in sight. Barry and his boy Friday Fernando Alfaro are complicit in activities that run counter to the interests of owners and investors who funded his scheme.  Even William Ramirez knows when its time to jump ship.

The losses are real and they are compounded by the accounting slight of hand and in mismanaging the development. Barry promotion of Costa Rica real estate is littered throughout every newsletter of his investment business. Saying the two are completely separate is yet another thinly veiled attempt in countering his critics.

Barry's done just fine with his million dollar house in Costa Rica and a nearby beach front investment hotel that always accommodates Barry, his family and friends for free. He's a freeloader living off other people's cash. 

SHAME SHAME SHAME on you Barry Strudwick.
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#3 Consumer Comment

Barry Strudwick is a scam artist!

AUTHOR: Linda - (United States of America)

Barry Strudwick is most definitely a scam artist!!!! BEWARE this individual if you're thinking about investing with him, or at least do your homework and see what other people are saying about him online. A dozen people with complaints against Barry can't be wrong can they? No.

We are currently gathering documents and communications between Barry and the individuals that were scammed to hand over to the FBI & FTC so that they can form their own cases against Barry Strudwick. If you have been scammed by Barry Strudwick in Baltimore, MD email me at j************@gmail.com. Hopefully once the FBI completes their investigation then Barry can be federally indicted by a grand jury for mail fraud or wire fraud since he accepted wire transfers under fraudulent pretenses. Since that is usually the only way you can successfully be prosecuted and sentenced in white collar crimes.

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#4 Consumer Comment

personal response to the report

AUTHOR: tom held - (United States of America)

My name is Tom Held and I own condo A-3 in our development.  Barry made me aware of this report many months ago.  Since I do not place credence in anonymous reports of this nature I never paid much attention to it until now.  But recently I have been directed to the report by fellow condo owners who, having read it, expressed their concerns.  It appears to me that the report is a rant against Barry and Fernando by a disgruntled owner who does not have the personal integrity to identify him/herself.  I was one of the first, possibly the first, condo purchaser at DP.  During the early years our development prospered and expanded at a very fast rate.  Over the past 3 years it has stagnated but not, in my opinion or knowledge, due directly to any improprieties, mishandling of HOA funds, security issues, lack of maintenance, or misappropriation of HOA funds.  Perhaps the author of the report has more detailed information and documented proof.  If so, he or she should come forward now or make a formal presentation at the upcoming HOA meeting in February, 2013. 

I have certainly not paid tens of thousands of dollars in building maintenance.  Ive had typical homeowner maintenance issues that need be done periodically (semi-annual preventive maintenance on my AC units, replacement of one interior exhaust fan, replacement of a hot water heater, etc.) as I do with my home in Maryland.  Any exterior maintenance issues have generally been addressed within what I feel is a reasonable time period.  DP is still a beautiful piece of property and hardly falls into the category of general neglect.

To state that Barrys staff controls the HOA is ludicrous.  Our HOA manager, Fernando, was elected by the home owners.  He was not appointed by Barry.  As owners we had the option of choosing a different HOA management company and neglected to do so.  In my opinion this was fortunate since the competing management company offered no formal proposal that could be evaluated, no client references, and no demonstrated experience.  I consider Fernando to be a person of impeccable honesty and someone whos income and future is dependent on the success of DP.  Why would he not accept responsibility for maintaining the facility to a high standard but within the limitations of income to do so? 

Yes, I think the HOA fees are very high but appear to be partially as a result of homeowners who do not pay and some who have never paid their monthly dues.

Did I understand the Spanish language and legal framework associated with purchasing property in Costa Rica?  Absolutely not and expect that 90% of gringos who enter into home purchases in the country have a similar lack of knowledge.  That is totally my fault.  I cannot blame Barry for my lack of Spanish language skills or knowledge of Costa Rica taxes, insurance, legal issues, etc.   

However, I consider myself much luckier than fellow countrymen who bought dirt in nearby developments like Cabo Caletas and others on the pacific coast who now cannot, and will never, be able to even play in their dirt pile.  I believe we still have the only active development, with the exception of Los Suenos, on the pacific coast that is still alive and active.  Since Marriott International is one of my clients I do know that sales at Los Suenos are dismal and property values there have decreased significantly. 

Am I disappointed in the downturn of the American economy and its affect on property values in Costa Rica, absolutely.  However, I am equally disappointed in my investment condo in the center of Washington DC, 30 seconds from a metro station with views of the Washington Monument, which has equally decreased in value.  However, I do not believe my DP condo has decreased in value by 40%.    I am cautiously optimistic of a long-term turnaround.   I also believe that Barry has done everything he could to keep DP a viable community and it is my hope that he continues to do so.
Personally I feel that the person who submitted this report ought to have the balls to identify himself/herself and submit documented proof of these accusations to the HOA.  Embezzlement of funds, thats a pretty serious accusation.   
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#5 Consumer Comment

this complaint is sour grapes

AUTHOR: long time investor - (United States of America)

I have been an investor in this RE project since the beginning and have visited Costa Rica and the project over 25 times; I own a house in a contiguous property.  I also meet with Barry personally 4 to 6 times a year to discuss the challenges in Costa Rica.  I know how hard he works on a continual basis to adapt plans and strategies to the difficult operating environment weve been in.   

Barry has gone to exceptional lengths to keep the project moving  and has overcome  major hurdles and challenges.  The team he put together did a great job getting the project off the ground and he always acknowledged that it would need professional management.  He worked on this for 5 years as key to his strategy was always trying to get high quality professional management involved.  To assist in this he engaged top investment bankers and in 2008 he signed a long term contract with a New York Stock exchange listed company to manage the houses and condos at the project.  Unfortunately this company withdrew from the global beach resorts market in early 2011 this was totally beyond Barrys control.   He should be given credit for his efforts. 

Im not aware of any lawsuits pending against Barry, however, in a non Costa Rica investment, Barry has tenaciously  pursued collecting monies due the investors and in June 2012 was instrumental in obtaining a judgment for $300,000 for the investors. 

Barry is not a psychopath; he is hardworking, focused, and determined.  Virtually every other start up real estate venture in Costa Rica has gone under and Barry has kept the project afloat.  This is not a vice its a virtue for his investors.  As I am sure you are all aware the real estate business in  most regions of the world has been incredibly challenging and many many people have lots billions of dollars since the meltdown started. 

Barry has always been very careful to keep the Costa Rica real estate venture separate from his investment advisory.  

The allegations about William may or may not be true, William would not be the only builder to have difficulty in paying vendors over the past several years but they have nothing to do with Barry.   

It is a cowardly way to attack a person through this method.   Real Estate investing in a developing country is a high risk situation.  Everyone who purchased a condo did so under their own free will understanding the risks and potential rewards.  

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#6 REBUTTAL Owner of company

Barry's Response to the Anonymous Lies & Innuendoes

AUTHOR: Barry - (United States of America)

I'm not quite sure where to start with the post by  the anonymous poster which is full of innuendo and  absolutely no facts.  I suggest that each person carefully re-read this post and then ask what does it really say ? Or, is this a cleverly and carefully written smear ? It clearly does not meet the Rip Off Reports criteria for stating facts and should be removed.

This reads like a condo owner with sour grapes or buyer's remorse and was posted  almost immediately after an HOA meeting in February 2012. However, as written about numerous times  in the Wall Street Journal and others, today almost every HOA in America has an nut case activist who is disgruntled about something and stirring the pot with the HOA becomes their mission in life. But this is hardly grounds for vague and anonymous allegations of  the types inferred here. Or perhaps this was posted by someone trying to damage my US investment business and poach clients. i really don't know.

I won't take the time to refute each issue point by point, but to start the real estate developments projects are not connected  to my US portfolio management company.  When a person buys a piece of real estate (such as a condo in Costa Rica ), they do not become investment clients. Rather, they become real estate owners. If market prices go down , the builder has not "robbed" the buyer as inferred here. He still owns the property. This is so basic that it should not need to be explained.  However,  the allegations and  innuendos are there.  

"40% Investment Losses" ?   Again,  no specifics are provided and we are left to guess as to what Grapestomp is actually talking about.  Since this appears to be a condo owner who wrote this,  are we talking about that the market price of condos all around the world have dropped significantly since the fall of 2008 ? The Case Shiller Housing Index in the United States has dropped by over 35% over this same period of time. There is no shocking revelation here. Is this somehow a diabolical scheme that I have hatched ?  Am I responsible for changes in market prices in the wake of a global real estate  recession ? Of course not.  

This being said, I am not aware of any owner who has sold a condo at a loss of anywhere near this amount. People purchasing international real estate  universally understand that this is both higher risk and potentially higher reward.  Prior to the 2008 crash, our pricing at about $225 PSF was much more rational than others and generally 35% to 50% below the prices asked in comparable projects. This lower entry point also means that there has been more cushion on the downside. You only have a loss when you sell and the amount of loss is calculated from your purchase price and not from a theoretical price you might have gotten at a market peak. Again, this is so fundamental , that it should not have to be pointed out as a rebuttal to an anonymous attack.

Lawsuits ?  Again, please read what is said carefully. This does not say there are any lawsuits against me. And there are none. However, with respect to lawsuits, earlier this year I succeeded in getting a $300,000 award in the California Courts on behalf of my partners in an investment partnership.  I had to pursue this for 5 years to get the judgment and I paid the expenses out of my own pocket. Isn't this the behavior you would want from your general partner ?

What is much more interesting is that lawsuits have been filed by the HOA against current 3 condos owners who are grossly delinquent on paying their HOA fees for several years. Over $100,000 in dues and penalties is being sought. The procedure in Costa Rica is that the Court will auction off these condos if the past due monies are not paid.  The auction is in January 2013 . Certainly $100,000 in back HOA fees can go a long way to sprucing up the pool. While this action was brought by the HOA against the owners, could retaliation be a potential motive for an attack on me as the developer? Again, I really don't know.

"Inexperienced Developer?"  I agree, this was always acknowledged and we hired top architects and planners to assist us.  However, after 10 years, perhaps you do experience. An important part of our long term strategy was to obtain an international  management company to mange the condos and in  2010, we signed a 10 year contract with a New York Stock Exchange listed  resort management company to provide these services.  However, in December 2011 they announced they were closing their  international beach resorts division.  This is clearly a factor beyond my control. Those close to he project know that I personally spent several thousand hours of time and effort to make this happen. There is nothing malicious here.

"Maze of Layered Companies?"  Again, vague allegations that sound ominous but mean nothing. In order to minimize real estate transfer taxes, it is common practice to have a separate company for every condo and also another one for each parking space.  This means that a 25 unit condo project will typically require 50 corporations.  Nothing diabolical here.  

"Lifestyle?"  I have worked for over 10 years on the these projects without a salary. With over 125 trips to Costa Rica , I've also have made huge personal sacrifices to see them succeed.  My economic interests have always been aligned with our owners and partners, I'm could go on, again just vague allegations

The bottom line here is that this whole "report" sounds like sour grapes from someone who has gotten caught in a global real estate downturn and / or has another agenda. Recently a former employee has been emailing this rubbage to people. 

Our project will make it through this down turn, but its only thru the extraordinary efforts and determination of our team. Cheap shots like this don't help us protect the interests of our owners. 

 I should also mention that within 48 hours of the initial I was contacted by firms saying that for $20,000 they could repair my reputation.  

Now what would you do if you were the subject of a similar attack ? 
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