Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Family suing Freedom owner

Collateral not his, land owners claim

By Jennifer Edwards and Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writers

LEBANON - Relatives of Florence Freedom part-owner Chuck Hildebrant say he mortgaged 204 acres of Warren County land he doesn't own - and used faked documents to do it.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, two companies owned by the relatives claim that Hildebrant got a nearly $3 million loan from Provident Bank by using the property as collateral.

June 18 - Florence Freedom minor league baseball team plays its first home game at Champion Window Field at Interstate 75 and U.S. 42.

July 21 - First lien filed against the team by contractors who say they were not paid for work on the stadium. As of Monday, 33 liens totaling $4.7 million had been filed.

Aug. 6 - The city of Hamilton, where the team played its first season, filed a lawsuit saying the team has not paid a $3,591 utility bill. City officials said last week that they doubt the bill will be paid.

Aug. 11 - Fifth Third Bank files a lawsuit against Florence Freedom co-owner Chuck Hildebrant and one of his companies, My 2 Sons LLC. The suit alleges that Hildebrant owes $987,000 on a loan secured by a 20-acre industrial site in Maineville. A judge orders Hildebrant to immediately repay the money.

Aug. 12 - Fifth Third Bank sues Hildebrant, and three of his companies - The Hildebrant Group, Cincinnati Helicopters and Turnkey Telecom Ohio- alleging that he owes more than $700,000 on two revolving lines of credit. The same day, a judge orders Hildebrant to immediately repay the money.

Provident Bank files a lawsuit alleging Hildebrant owes $2.75 million on a loan it granted to build a baseball stadium. Bank officials also say he owes $125,000 on a revolving line of credit.

Aug. 16 - Fifth Third Bank's lawyer asks a Kenton County Circuit Court to freeze bank accounts and properties owned by Hildebrant and/or companies he is associated with. The filing includes a letter from a lawyer representing the Little Miami School District stating the superintendent did not sign a July 15 letter of intent saying the school district planned to buy some land from one of Hildebrant's companies. That letter was supplied to the bank for the July 22 loan. Fifth Third claimed in a lawsuit that the signature on the letter of intent was forged.

Aug. 23 - The city of Florence sues the team's owners for breach of the lease on the stadium and Chuck and Connie Hildebrant, saying they overstated assets in financial statements they gave the city to secure the lease.

Sept. 3 - Florence Freedom's owner, Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Sept. 13 - A company owned by Hildebrant's relatives sues Hildebrant and Provident Bank, alleging that 204 acres used as collateral to get loans was not Hildebrant's property to borrow against.

Hildebrant "intentionally and maliciously executed the mortgages knowing he had no authority to execute the mortgages..." the lawsuit states.

The suit was filed Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court by the relatives' companies, Hildebrant Family Partnership Ltd. and the Sandy Cove Corp.

The suit names Chuck and Connie Hildebrant, Provident Bank and two title companies, Mercantile Title Agency Inc., of Cincinnati and First American Title Insurance Co. of Santa Ana, Calif.

The suit alleges that Chuck Hildebrant fraudulently changed papers to name himself as general partner of Hildrebrant Family Partnership and fraudulently filed an application with the Ohio Secretary of State to register Sandy Cove Corp. in Ohio with himself as president.

The suit says Chuck and Connie Hildebrant were never partners in either the family partnership or officers of Sandy Cove Corp.

The companies own four parcels totaling more than 200 acres, according to Warren County land records.

In May, Chuck Hildebrant mortgaged that land with Provident Bank in Dayton, according to Warren County land records and the lawsuit.

In return, Provident Bank gave him a $2.75 million construction loan to "build baseball stadium," for Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, the team's ownership group. He also was given a revolving credit loan for $125,000. Last month, a judge declared the loans in default and ordered Hildebrant to immediately repay them.

The lawsuit filed Monday asks for clear title to the land, for the bank to declare the mortgages null and void, and monetary damages and attorney's fees.

Chuck Hildebrant, 45, of Morrow, is under a federal white collar crime investigation into how he financed the $7 million to $8 million stadium.

Hildebrant also faces $4.7 million in liens filed by contractors for work on the stadium, has been sued by the city of Florence and has been ordered by two Ohio judges to repay $4.5 million in bank loans.

The team's owner, Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, has filed for bankruptcy.

In August, the city of Florence sued Chuck and Connie Hildebrant, alleging that financial statements they submitted to the city were false. The city required the statements because the Hildebrants signed a personal financial guarantee that they had enough assets to cover the cost of the stadium and fulfill the terms of the lease.

Attorneys for Chuck Hildebrant's uncle, Vernon Hildebrant, 83, and one of Vernon's sons, Mark, stumbled upon the liens and mortgages over the summer and contacted Provident, which halted further loans to Chuck Hildebrant, said Mark Hildebrant, 52, of Holland, Mich., in an interview last month.

The family filed the lawsuit Monday, the suit states, because they can't sell or develop the property because of the liens from the mortgages.

The suit states that Provident and Mercantile, which handled the closing of the loans and issued title insurance to Provident, failed to confirm the owners of the property.

Provident has filed a claim on its title insurance, First American, that the mortgages are invalid since they were not taken out by the property owners, according to the suit.

The bank knows the liens of the mortgages are invalid but refuses to release the liens, the suit claims.

Title companies provide title insurance to the lender and ensure the property is free and clear of debts or liens and that all proper paperwork is signed and checks are distributed.

Because of $2.75 million construction loan, Provident Bank is Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball's largest creditor. The ownership group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sept. 3.

In its bankruptcy filing, the ownership group said it owes $9.5 million to nearly 50 contractors and vendors

Chuck Hildebrant's attorney, Jack Rubenstein, did not return a call for comment Monday afternoon. In a brief interview last month, he saidhis client is working to resolve all issues.

Last month, Hildebrant referred questions to his attorney. Connie Hildebrant, 44, could not be reached for comment Monday and previously has declined interview requests.

A Provident Bank spokesman declined comment Monday on the lawsuit. Calls to both title companies named in the suit were not returned.

Hildebrant was convicted of bank embezzlement in 1978, federal court records show. Then 19 years old, he was sentenced April 17, 1978, to three years probation, records show.

In 1991, Hildebrant was convicted of forgery in Warren County for altering county records to purchase a car, court records show. He was sentenced to five years probation and 200 hours of community service. The court terminated his probation early after he asked to move to Florida and begin over.


E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com and bkelly@enquirer.com

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