Florida Keys News
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Centennial Bank owes firm in failed development
Working waterfront project is scaled-down version of Old Island Harbor plan

The final chapter in a legal row over the firm's $1.25 million investment in a defunct Stock Island marina development project is being written as both sides agreed Friday how the money should be paid back.

U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez ruled in July that Centennial Bank should pay RPM Nautical the money it gave New Stock Island Properties on Feb. 23, 2007, as part of a planned marina and hotel complex.

Lawyers on both sides have been trying to hammer out the math given a 4.75 percent interest rate that RPM Nautical says it's due on top of the $1.2 million, said RPM attorney Jim Goold.

The bank had been arguing that it shouldn't have to pay interest on the amount. RPM is also seeking attorney fees on top of that $1.2 million plus interest, which could approach $2 million, Goold said.

The cash was designated as money to be paid back if New Stock Island Properties failed to complete the marina and deliver RPM a boat slip within three years, according to a federal lawsuit. The money essentially was a security deposit for the slip.

Those dollars were put into an escrow account at Key West Bank, which failed in March 2010 when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was made receiver, according to online FDIC records.

Centennial Bank then took over, so RPM Nautical is trying to get its money back from that financial institution.

The FDIC involvement resulted in the case being transferred from the state's 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Monroe County to federal court.

Whether or not Centennial Bank will seek to recover the funds from the FDIC was not something that bank attorney Christopher Carver said he could comment on. And whether or not the Centennial Bank will appeal remained unclear last week.

At the heart of the matter is the Old Island Harbor development project that fell on hard times and was in foreclosure to the tune of more than $100 million. However, it has been resurrected as a much smaller project now called Stock Island Marina Village.

The original ambitious and controversial redevelopment project called for a hotel, ferry terminal for potential service to Cuba, upscale condominiums, and a series of new shops and restaurants on property that historically was used as a working waterfront.

The new project still calls for a hotel, but aims to keep more of the working waterfront.

Also involved in the case is the estate of the late Thomas DiDato, who was a Keys attorney. RPM Nautical claims Key West Bank improperly allowed DiDato to take funds from the escrow account.

DiDato committed suicide in May 2010 while under investigation by the Monroe County State Attorney's Office for allegedly stealing the money. It was unclear how close the matter was to being settled when DiDato killed himself.

RPM Nautical reached major league status among academics worldwide in 2011 when it raised from the Mediterranean Sea helmets and vessel-battering rams used during a battle between Roman and Carthaginian forces in 241 BCE.


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