Villages president charged
Posted in the Tavares Forum
#1 Nov 6, 2010
Villages president charged with wildlife violations in Montana
The president and chief operating officer of The Villages has been charged with felony wildlife violations in Montana.
Mark Morse is among six Floridians arrested for 18 crimes allegedly committed during the past foury ears in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties in Montana, according to a state news release.
Gary Lester, communty relations vice president for The Villages, did not return a phone call Thurdsay seeking comment on the charges against Morse.
Morse next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 23 in Billings, Mont., said Montana wildlife spokesman Bob Gibson.
Some of those arrested own ranches in Montana, the release said.
In addition, felony and misdemeanor charges were filed against a Billings-area man and a Utah hunting outfitter, who are accused of aiding the Florida residents in committing wildlife violations.
The Montana Attorney General's office filed the charges in Billings, Hardin and Helena, Mont., starting in mid-October. The investigation has been ongoing for about a year, Gibson said.
Morse his wife and their daughter were charged along with James "Ike" Rainey, Lenard Lee Powell and Richard E. Staton of Wildwood, Fla., Montana authorities said.
Toby Lee Griffith of Billings and David L. Duncan of Huntsville, Utah also were charged.
Rainey owns Rainey Construction Co., which does work in The Villages. Powell is listed as president of LPI Curb Service, a concrete construction company that does work in The Villages. Staton is a former Florida Wolf Mountain Ranch employee.
Mark Morse is charged with:
-- Possessing a trophy mule deer buck in 2006 that was killed in Big Horn County in violation of conditions of an outfitter-sponsored license.
-- Helping Rainey with an elk hunt in Big Horn County in September 2008 when neither Morse nor Rainey had an elk license valid in that area.
-- Possessing three mule deer bucks in Big Horn County in November 2008 for which there were not proper tags.
-- Possession of a bull elk taken in 2006 in Yellowstone County in violation of conditions of an outfitter-sponsored license.
-- Killing a bull elk in Yellowstone County in 2007 when he did not have a valid Montana elk license.
-- Helping his daughter, Kelsea Morse, kill a wild turkey, for which neither had a license, in the spring of 2007.
-- Helping his daughter hunt, shoot and track a bull elk, for which neither had a valid license, in 2008 in Yellowstone County.
All of the charges against Mark Morse of killing or illegally possessing elk and deer are felonies because the animals were classified as trophies or their value exceeded $1,000. The combined maximum penalties for the charges against Mark Morse total $203,000 in fines, 21 1/2 years in prison and loss of Montana hunting and fishing privileges.
Rainey is charged with:
-- Hunting elk in Big Horn County without a license in September 2008, a misdemeanor.
-- Possession of two bull elk and four mule deer killed on two consecutive days in November 2008 in Big Horn County and for which Rainey did not have legal licenses. Because the value of the animals exceeds $1,000, Rainey is charged with a felony.
-- Two misdemeanor charges of waste of game in Big Horn County in September 2009. Rainey is accused of killing two elk, then removing only the head from one elk and allowing the meat from both carcasses to rot.
The combined maximum penalties for the charges against Rainey total $53,000 in fines, 6 1/2 years in prison and loss of Montana hunting and fishing privileges.
Additional charges are pending against 10 other people identified during the investigation.
#2 Nov 6, 2010
IRS relentless in probe of Villages bond transactions
Lauren Ritchie ~ Orlando Sentinel
August 29, 2010
First of two parts.
A year has passed since the Internal Revenue Service suggested that The Villages retirement community redeem more than $344 million in bonds the IRS says were improperly issued as tax-free.
The agency wanted $16 million in back taxes and a promise by community development districts never again to masquerade as a legitimate government.
The Villages thumbed its proverbial nose at such a notion, and then it was on.
What's happened in the interim may be entertaining for those of us watching from the outside but probably isn't amusing for 80,000 residents of the community that sprawls over Lake, Sumter and Marion counties.
It's got to be unsettling and frightening to wonder what's in store. Not to mention expensive. The district already has spent more than $209,000 of residents' money so far, nearly all on high-powered lawyers on both coasts.
Here's a refresher on the situation:
As The Villages was built, its developer Gary Morse created a form of government called community development districts, the same type scrutinized in this column last week.
Some 294 of these Florida districts have issued bonds, and 42 percent of them are in trouble. Either the districts cannot collect enough assessments to pay for the bonds or the reserve accounts have been raided to make the payments, or the developers behind the communities have gone bankrupt, leaving unsold lots and unpaid assessments.
Villagers can take a deep breath on those fronts. Morse and his family are extremely well capitalized — fabulously wealthy is probably a better description — and because homes in The Villages continue to sell, default on the bonds is an extremely remote possibility.
In the Villages, two main community development districts have sold bonds to buy the infrastructure and recreational facilities — things like lights, roads, sewer and water plants, clubhouses, golf courses, gatehouses and more — from the developer.
That's the way it worked, too, in the other Florida districts that have issued bonds. However, The Villages bond deals differ in two key ways — and that has brought them a load of continuing trouble from the IRS, which contends that the developer perverted law to make himself rich at the expense of retirees who buy homes there.
First, the seats on the district governing boards in other developments typically are turned over to the residents as buyers purchase lots and move in. Not so in The Villages, where the districts selling the bonds in question are controlled by the developer and deliberately are set up so he can keep them out of the hands of residents for as long as he wants.
#3 Nov 6, 2010
Second, these districts — remember that they're controlled by the developer — are using part of the bond money to buy "blue sky" from the developer. In this case, it is simply the right to collect assessment fees from residents. The developer gets all the fees in his bank account now instead of having to wait for them to dribble in over 30 years. Lucky residents get to repay the bond through fees — with interest — for 30 years to come.
What a beautifully magnificent source of unfettered, risk-free cash for the developer. The other districts in Florida buy things they can touch, such as water plants. "Blue-sky" transactions haven't been included in their bond deals.
Community development districts that buy infrastructure from developers are a rip-off to the consumer, never mind The Villages' "blue sky" purchases, which are just a secondary piece of legal thievery.
In subdivisions without districts that issue bonds, buyers pay for the infrastructure in the price of the house. In those with districts, they do, too. But in addition, they pay a second time for that infrastructure — with interest — as they pay off the bonds, which often add an extra $20,000 to the price of a house.
All of this caused the IRS to start looking into the district's bonds three years ago and asking questions about who the district really is and who it benefits. It came to the conclusion that a developer-controlled district benefits only the developer and should not be viewed as a real government with the privilege of the ability to sell tax-free bonds.
The district has contended that it is, indeed, a legitimate government under Florida law and as such, should be recognized as such by the IRS.
Oh, my. What a mess.
Now that you are up to speed on the background, we'll take a look Wednesday at the latest moves on both sides and what they might mean for the average homeowner.
#4 Nov 6, 2010
IRS-Villages dispute shows no sign of resolution
Lauren Ritchie COMMENTARY
September 1, 2010
Second of two parts.
In May, the Internal Revenue Service agent conducting the review of $355.4 million in outstanding bonds issued by the Village Center and the Sumter Landing community development districts suggested a settlement in the ongoing war between the two.
The district should redeem all its bonds and repay the debt. It should pony up $16 million in back taxes on the bonds and should agree never to issue tax-free bonds again.
The settlement suggested by the agent wasn't received with dancing in the streets. Though there is no written rejection in the files at the district office, the answer that filtered back to the IRS was quite clear.
And it touched off a new set of skirmishes in what has become an expensive battle — already $209,000 spent in mostly lawyer fees — that I described in Sunday's column.
IRS Agent Dominick Servadio responded to the district's disdain for his idea in July by officially opening new investigations on another $60 million worth of bonds issued by the Sumter Landing Community Development District.
Complaints about agent
The district retaliated by calling Servadio's boss and complaining.
On July 20, he fired back in a letter: "All of the complaints/issues you have raised are totally without merit, and I would only hope that in the future you would have the courtesy to direct any similar comments or complaints to me instead of going behind my back.
"I can only assume that the intent of these recent phone calls is to distract attention away from the examination issues, or possibly to indirectly intimidate me or impede me in the performance of my officials duties.
"I can assure you that you will accomplish none of those things."
He stated that "everyone's best interest" would be served if the district honored his request to deal directly with him and quit calling his bosses.
The district's next move was to file a Freedom of Information Act demand, wanting to know with what third parties (especially the evil media) Servadio had discussed the case. That's because the district seemed convinced from the beginning that this is all about a conspiratorial smear campaign by Villages haters or else a career-building maneuver by the agent.(That's standard response to criticism in The Villages. Anyone who questions the financial structure is either jealous or has a secret agenda to destroy the happiness of 80,000 lucky people. It couldn't be anything else.)
The IRS just laughed and said no. It wasn't releasing any documents from an ongoing review to determine whether nearly a half billion dollars in bonds should be considered tax-free.
Outcome of dispute unclear
Since then, Servadio has been promoted. A field agent in Charlotte, N.C., was assigned the case, and in March she asked for hundreds of pages of information about how the districts function and what they own.
The agent wants evidence of the written consent for establishing the districts from all the landowners whose property is included in the district, a legal description of the external boundaries of the district and a land-use plan showing what is intended for the property in the future.
Meanwhile, an IRS appraiser from Palm Beach County came to calculate the value of what the district bought from the developer with the bond money. Part of the dispute involves the IRS contention is that the developer made as much as 700 percent profit, which Servadio said would never have happened if the developer hadn't controlled the district.
So, there you have it. Nobody's position has changed much, and the dispute is just humming along through the system.
Millions of dollars are still at stake, and the future for homeowners in The Villages is no more clear when this investigation started several years ago.
#5 Nov 15, 2010
I understaand they have conived and stolen their way to the top. I understand the golden rule. He with the gold rules! What I do not understand is how any company or individual in the USA can literally own and control their personal International airport! Villages rumors say the guy who is supposed to be the Federal customs employee is actually a retired agent paid by the Morse's and actually lives in the Villages. Anyone who obviously has total disregard for our laws such as Mark Morse has darn sure got no right to own his personal International airport. Who knows what he's flying into the USA if he owns the customs agents?
#6 Nov 17, 2010
yes, and what else underlies the entire deals.
I cannot condemen all the people who live there
though they do seem to think they have always been
better then the rest of people in lake co. they
built their on shopping facilities so they would not have to buy from other, businesses..so that
made this past deal even fatter for the person
#7 Mar 18, 2011
Has Morse got this bought off yet? He buys off everything else!
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