That’s according to Richard Henry, a former employee at Cabrera’s development company CC Turner, and Thomas Messina, one of Cabrera’s investors. They both say the settlement payment might not have come about without a book of evidence that was quietly compiled by Cabrera’s partners at CC Turner in 2006.
Those directly involved with the settlement give different accounts, but Henry and Messina say the settlement was a disastrous financial decision for Cabrera’s investors, as the payment put many of Cabrera’s projects on the road to foreclosure.
MONEY TO KEEP QUIET?
Henry and Messina said that long before most investors were told the deals were failing — and long before Cabrera found himself facing federal fraud charges for his alleged role in arranging undisclosed property flips on two of land deals along Fiddlesticks Boulevard and in embezzling $20,100 from one project — Cabrera had come under fire from his business partners, Ian Schmoyer and Todd Turner.
Henry, who now lives in Philadelphia, and Messina, who lives in Fort Myers, were close to Turner and Schmoyer in 2006. Henry and Messina also were invested in several of Cabrera’s deals at the time.
They said that Turner and Schmoyer let them know during that summer that they were working to compile a thick, three-ring binder full of documents from Cabrera’s companies that would have shown questionable uses of investors’ money.
It was an evidence book that would have documented mismanagement, they said, and possibly fraud.
The reason for gathering these documents, Henry and Messina said, was to give Turner and Schmoyer leverage over Cabrera and help them conclude a settlement agreement as they cut their ties with Cabrera.
A settlement agreement with CC Turner was discussed and mediated at a September 2006 dinner meeting at a downtown Fort Myers restaurant.
Among the six people at the meeting were Cabrera’s father-in-law, Lee County Manager Don Stilwell, as well as Cabrera’s boss and lender, Frank D’Alessandro. Also there were Todd Turner, Ian Schmoyer — Cabrera’s partners in the company set up to develop his real estate projects — and Ian Schmoyer’s father, Miromar Development executive Jerry Schmoyer.
From what Turner has told them, Henry and Messina said, the goal of the meeting was to force a payout from Cabrera.
While records from Cabrera’s management company, Cabrera Capital, show a payment of $475,000 in October 2006 for a settlement with CC Turner from one investment account, no one who was at the September meeting has confirmed the story that Henry and Messina are telling.
Cabrera, who is facing trial in federal court in October on four counts of wire fraud, declined to comment. His attorney, John Mills, though, questioned the version of events Messina and Henry are giving.
“There was no misappropriation of funds. All of the funds were used to invest in the properties,” Mills said. “All of the people who are claiming misappropriations of funds are angry. If the real estate market had risen and they doubled or tripled their money, Samir Cabrera would be their hero.”
As for Turner and Ian Schmoyer, multiple calls were placed to their offices at CC Turner during the past week, but they weren’t available to answer questions.
Jerry Schmoyer, who has previously described the dispute that led to the September 2006 meeting as a disagreement over money owed to CC Turner for development work, couldn’t be reached.
Stilwell, who is facing an investigation into his past statements to county commissioners abut his real estate investments with his son-in-law, couldn’t be reached, either.
Stilwell’s attorney, Patrick Geraghty, said Friday that his client has told him there were no books or documents whatsoever at the September 2006 meeting. He has said before that no specifics of a settlement were discussed at the meeting.
Neither Messina nor Henry was present at the September 2006 meeting, and neither claims to know exactly what happened there.
Neither has a copy of the contents of the binder they have described.
Both Henry and Messina are involved with lawsuits against Cabrera, and both have lost money on the deals they did with him.
So have many of their friends.
A special agent and spokesman for the FBI in Southwest Florida, Dave Couvertier, confirmed late last month that Messina was someone who had come forward with information in the agency’s investigation of Cabrera. He wouldn’t say if investigators knew anything that would support Messina’s version of the events, though.
But both Henry and Messina say they will stand by their account that Turner and Schmoyer compiled an evidence book ahead of that meeting, and that the settlement with CC Turner was for more than a dispute over non-payment for services.
Messina said Turner showed him the evidence in the binder several times in 2006. Turner gave him a chance to look through it and explained why he had it.
Messina said he believes everyone at the September 2006 meeting would have known about the documents in the binder — even if they didn’t see them — and that it would have been clear what it would have meant for Cabrera if that information got out.
Talking to Ian Schmoyer and Turner both before and after the meeting, and also hearing accounts from another of Cabrera’s business partners, Raymond DeMarco, Messina said that they told him that when Cabrera was shown the documents, it led to a heated dispute between Turner and Cabrera.
Messina said Turner also told him that with the settlement money paid to CC Turner after the meeting, the agreement “was to keep this booklet from getting out to anyone because of the damage it would do.”
For that reason, Messina said he believes that others besides Cabrera are responsible for the losses Cabrera’s investors later faced, as the money for the settlement came from the money investors thought was going toward developing properties into shopping centers and office parks.
Financial statements from Cabrera Capital for the various land deals show that Cabrera successfully raised more than $11 million from investors on seven of his land deals. But those records also show that no single project had enough money in September 2006 to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The only way Cabrera could have afforded the settlement at the time was to pool some of his commercial projects together, draining some accounts and transferring many investors’ interests to a larger project called Daniels View.
By spring 2007, Cabrera’s projects were still vacant lots. Several properties had been sold at a loss, others were in foreclosure and the investors’ money was mostly gone.
More recently, as Messina has been pursuing lawsuits against Cabrera, he has talked with Turner again about that evidence book. Messina said Turner has given him the same story.
Ahead of the September 2006 meeting, Henry, who worked as a project superintendent for CC Turner at the time, said that his boss, Turner, talked to him regularly about the documents he was collecting to use against Cabrera.
Henry said that as early as summer 2006, Turner and Ian Schmoyer, Cabrera’s two partners in the development company CC Turner and fellow managing partners in the Daniels View deal, were working to compile a stack of papers that would have shown that investors’ money went for Cabrera’s personal expenses.
Those would have included trips to a nightclub in Las Vegas and vehicle purchases.
Henry said the existence of an evidence book was common knowledge among many who worked at CC Turner.
So was what Turner and Ian Schmoyer planned to do with the information, he said.
“He told myself. He told the Messinas. He told my wife,” Henry said. Henry’s wife also worked for CC Turner at the time, though both were later fired.
“There would be no reason for Todd (Turner) to lie about something like this,” Henry said.
As for where the documents in the binder came from, Henry said that some were taken from the office that CC Turner shared with Cabrera’s management company, Cabrera Capital, until mid-2006. Turner also may have had access to certain bank records as one of Cabrera’s business partners, Henry said.
Ahead of the September 2006 dinner meeting, Henry said Turner told him that Cabrera was about to get “the shock of his life,” and that Turner said that “he would report Samir to the authorities if he didn’t get what he wanted.”
Afterward, Henry said, Turner described the meeting this way: that he “had the proof that would implicate Samir (Cabrera) as to the money coming out of investors’ funds, and Samir realized his number was up.”
Within two weeks of the meeting, Henry said, Turner let him know the settlement amount would be under $1 million, but close to that amount.
As for whether that payment was just for development work performed by CC Turner, Henry said that couldn’t be the full reason.
The documents Cabrera’s partners had collected were what forced the settlement, he said.
Turner has offered to show the binder to him, Henry said, and Turner would often tell him not to trust Cabrera.
“All the investors’ money that you guys think is safe in the investment accounts, he’s going to Vegas with it, buying clothes, buying cars,” Henry recalled Turner saying.
Until that point in 2006, Henry said, he had believed that Cabrera’s money had come primarily from selling residential properties for First Home Builders of Florida through D’Alessandro & Woodyard.
Henry said he still has no proof — other than what Turner told him — that investors’ money paid for the thousands of dollars in cash that he watched Cabrera throw into the air at clubs in Philadelphia, or the $500 bottles of champagne that he said Cabrera would intentionally spray all around during nights out in Fort Myers, or the $25,000 watch that he once saw Cabrera buy.
Those are the kinds of typical purchases that another Philadelphia-area investor, Robert Buglak, recalled Cabrera making. Messina and another Lee County investor, Robert Mengle, have given similar accounts of Cabrera’s lifestyle.
At this point, looking back at all the money he put into Cabrera’s projects, Henry said, “it wasn’t an investment. It was a contribution. A contribution to the Samir Cabrera fund.”
He said that partly because of the size of the settlement that he has heard Cabrera agreed to, he believes Cabrera must have been worried about what was in the documents Turner had collected.
“If you did nothing wrong, why would you pay someone hundreds of thousands of dollars?” Henry asked.