Complaint: The cars, the champagne, the jewelry, the cash thrown into the air in the middle of a party. The means to drop tens of thousands of dollars in a single night at a club in Las Vegas or Philadelphia. It was this lifestyle of extravagance that initially drew some people to Samir Cabrera, confirming their hopes that rapid success and riches were within reach for those willing to dive into the Southwest Florida real estate market. If the wealth Cabrera displayed led some to see him as a savvy entrepreneur as he began assembling commercial real estate deals in Lee County in 2005 and 2006, his spending ultimately led to questions about whether he had tapped investorsu2019 money for his own use. Cabrerau2019s spending habits also may have given two of his close business associates an opportunity to force his hand, leading him to agree to a settlement payment of up to $800,000 to make sure they would keep quiet about his questionable expenditures. Thatu2019s according to Richard Henry, a former employee at Cabrerau2019s development company CC Turner, and Thomas Messina, one of Cabrerau2019s investors. They both say the settlement payment might not have come about without a book of evidence that was quietly compiled by Cabrerau2019s 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 Cabrerau2019s investors, as the payment put many of Cabrerau2019s 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 u2014 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 u2014 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 Cabrerau2019s 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 Cabrerau2019s companies that would have shown questionable uses of investorsu2019 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 Cabrerau2019s father-in-law, Lee County Manager Don Stilwell, as well as Cabrerau2019s boss and lender, Frank Du2019Alessandro. Also there were Todd Turner, Ian Schmoyer u2014 Cabrerau2019s partners in the company set up to develop his real estate projects u2014 and Ian Schmoyeru2019s 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. RESPONSES While records from Cabrerau2019s 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. u201cThere was no misappropriation of funds. All of the funds were used to invest in the properties,u201d Mills said. u201cAll 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.u201d As for Turner and Ian Schmoyer, multiple calls were placed to their offices at CC Turner during the past week, but they werenu2019t 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, couldnu2019t 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, couldnu2019t be reached, either. Stilwellu2019s 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 agencyu2019s investigation of Cabrera. He wouldnu2019t say if investigators knew anything that would support Messinau2019s 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. MESSINAu2019S ACCOUNT 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 u2014 even if they didnu2019t see them u2014 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 Cabrerau2019s 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 u201cwas to keep this booklet from getting out to anyone because of the damage it would do.u201d For that reason, Messina said he believes that others besides Cabrera are responsible for the losses Cabrerau2019s 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 investorsu2019 interests to a larger project called Daniels View. By spring 2007, Cabrerau2019s projects were still vacant lots. Several properties had been sold at a loss, others were in foreclosure and the investorsu2019 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. HENRYu2019S ACCOUNT 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, Cabrerau2019s 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 investorsu2019 money went for Cabrerau2019s 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. u201cHe told myself. He told the Messinas. He told my wife,u201d Henry said. Henryu2019s wife also worked for CC Turner at the time, though both were later fired. u201cThere would be no reason for Todd (Turner) to lie about something like this,u201d 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 Cabrerau2019s management company, Cabrera Capital, until mid-2006. Turner also may have had access to certain bank records as one of Cabrerau2019s business partners, Henry said. Ahead of the September 2006 dinner meeting, Henry said Turner told him that Cabrera was about to get u201cthe shock of his life,u201d and that Turner said that u201che would report Samir to the authorities if he didnu2019t get what he wanted.u201d Afterward, Henry said, Turner described the meeting this way: that he u201chad the proof that would implicate Samir (Cabrera) as to the money coming out of investorsu2019 funds, and Samir realized his number was up.u201d 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 couldnu2019t be the full reason. The documents Cabrerau2019s 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. u201cAll the investorsu2019 money that you guys think is safe in the investment accounts, heu2019s going to Vegas with it, buying clothes, buying cars,u201d Henry recalled Turner saying. Until that point in 2006, Henry said, he had believed that Cabrerau2019s money had come primarily from selling residential properties for First Home Builders of Florida through Du2019Alessandro & Woodyard. Henry said he still has no proof u2014 other than what Turner told him u2014 that investorsu2019 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 Cabrerau2019s lifestyle. At this point, looking back at all the money he put into Cabrerau2019s projects, Henry said, u201cit wasnu2019t an investment. It was a contribution. A contribution to the Samir Cabrera fund.u201d 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. u201cIf you did nothing wrong, why would you pay someone hundreds of thousands of dollars?u201d Henry asked.
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