Real estate project sale leaves U.S. buyers in the lurch

The Hacienda Matapalo real estate project has changed hands, and those who gave money to the previous management are wondering if they are protected.

The change in ownership was contained in a .pdf file on the firm’s Web site, addressed to “To Holders of Agreements to Purchase Home Sites and Condominiums at Hacienda Matapalo.”

At the same time the local CBS television station in Miami aired a story interviewing residents there who had given the original management money in anticipation of construction, which has not taken place. A former employee of the former management was quoted saying that perhaps as many as 200 would-be purchasers sent $21 million to the firm,  Pegasus Star Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.S.-based  Centam Partners, LLC.

The announcement of the purchase was by Giovanni Varela, who was identified as the legal representative of  Gestion Integrada De Residuos SRL, called GIR. Said the announcement: “Varela is one of the principals of INDECA, the premier architectural and design firm in Central America. However, we stress that GIR has no development arrangements or agreements in place at this time.”

Apparently many of the would-be purchasers gave a down payment and continued to put money into what they thought was a trust account.

The announcement of the ownership change identified the previous operators and managers as  David Matluck, Ed Sklar and Brian Albury.

The announcement also said that the Matapalo property is subject to a secured loan with a firm identified as  UTA Capital LLC. The announcement said that  Gestion Integrada De Residuos took over the management in lieu of foreclosure and that additional resources were provided.

Said the announcement:

“You can expect a new philosophy and different set of priorities moving forward. GIR is not a marketing company, nor a sales-driven organization. Do not anticipate the numerous emails, solicitations, marketing materials or various electronic updates to which you had become accustomed with the former owner. GIR is focusing squarely on the necessary steps to complete the infrastructure that will allow for lot closings and for vertical construction to begin.

“GIR has chosen to direct the bulk of its resources towards producing tangible results. GIR is effectively transitioning to the construction phase of development.

“In anticipation of taking ownership of Hacienda Matapalo, GIR had been systematically laying over the past several months the preliminary groundwork necessary to move the project forward, with funding support and encouragement so far from UTA Capital LLC. The long awaited HOA documents are now complete and filed with the proper governmental agencies.

“The individual surveys for the single-family home sites have been completed and we expect to receive the final governmental approvals for lot closings in August. In combination with those surveys, the other required preliminary steps to facilitate single-family home site registration for inclusion in the National Registry are also nearly complete.

“All of the crucial permits and approvals have been secured including, but not limited to, the water concession and sewage treatment plants. Hacienda Matapalo has continued to successfully pass all the necessary environmental inspections from Setena and Acopac, two important Costa Rican governmental agencies. In the second half of July you can expect to see work resume on infrastructure, the entrance way and the guardhouse.”

Acopac is the Área de Conservación Pacífico Central, and Setena is the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental.

The announcement also said that some former employees of Pegasus, Michael Starkey and Nathan Posey, are being retained in the United States to serve as liaisons between the new owners and those who are purchasing property.

“In the coming months you can expect to be systematically contacted by Michael or Nathan as they will be assigned to assist the new owner in two very important specific tasks: (1) execution by prospective buyers of new purchase and sale agreements with GIR, and (2) determining which individuals who signed appropriate purchase option agreements with Pegasus are prepared to close and have the necessary financial resources to meet the closing obligations of the GIR agreements.”

In short the announcement probably means that those who gave money to Pegasus have lost their cash because UTA Capital has taken over the property and that anyone who wants to do business will have to start all over with the new firm. To get their money they will have to start legal actions against Pegasus.

The 665-acre project was at Playa Matapalo, which is on the central Pacific coast between Quepos and Dominical. The Web site called Matapalo the No. 1 real estate development in Costa Rica.

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