A medical doctor in the United States is warning Grenada to stay away from his countryman, Robert Martin Oveson who showed up in the Spice Isle nearly a decade after a failed multi-million dollar Condo project in Mexico.
Dr. Mark Sternfeld who specialises in Internal Medicine and lives in Redmond in Oregon has been trying to recover over US $800, 000.00, the equivalent of EC$2.17 million in a deal that went sour in the Mexican city of Manzanillo in 2008 that involved Oveson.
Speaking from, his home with THE NEW TODAY, Dr. Sternfeld said he had advanced thousands of dollars to the man who is promoting the Levera project but he did not fulfill the contract on a Housing unit being built for him and failed to return the monies that were sent to him in advanced payment.
“I continue to urge investors to pay heed and avoid involvement with Rob Oveson and any company to which he is associated”, he said.
Dr. Sternfeld also brushed aside a statement put out by those associated with the Levera project seeking to put down the losses suffered by investors in the Mexico project as a result from the financial crisis in the world in 2008.
The medical doctor alledged that, it failed as a result of fraud and embezzlement of the funds given to Oveson by the investors.
He scoffed at the release, which sought to downplay the true role of the controversial developer for the financial mess that occurred in the Mexican project.
He said: “Robert Oveson identified himself, at all times and to all buyers, as the sole head of the Boca de Iguanas resort project. He found the beach property, he negotiated all real estate deals to acquire the property, and the vision and details of the project were his and his alone.
“All decisions regarding the project were ultimately his. He presented himself as having “investors” who supported the project and were behind his vision. When the project started to objectively fail he refused, despite numerous casual and legal requests, to reveal so-called investors.
“To this day, “the investors” have never been identified. That being said, it was understood that “the investors” were essentially family members and close associates including his father.
Dr. Sternfeld also sought to address the claim made in the statement put out by the Levera Group that those who were unhappy with things on the project in Mexico took the unfortunate decision of trying to sue Oveson when in fact they should take action against the company.
“Oveson was never identified as a Director of the company. Our contracts identify him as “seller” and “administrator”. The term Director is nothing more than an attempt to distance himself from his responsibility to the project. He was it.
“There was no one else making decisions. He did not stop being the “Director” of the Boca de Iguanas resort. He walked away from his contractual obligations including building and maintaining a high-end eco-resort, providing area security, building the condos, homes and buildings that were paid for, paying his state and federal taxes, paying state and federal loans, paying court-ordered disbursements, paying water and electric bills and, of course, paying workers and vendors.
“To this day Mr. Oveson and his band have failed to communicate with the buyers or make any type of gesture to make good on the contractual obligations. Instead he left the country and has moved on to his next victims in Grenada.
“Finally, this lawyer-drafted response …implies that financial decline of Boca de Iguanas was due to the 2008 economic crisis. This is completely false. Mr. Oveson collected the sales price of all condos and houses in advance of building.
“The Boca de Iguanas financial crisis was caused by mismanagement and the embezzlement of funds away from the projects to which they were dedicated.
“In truth, the investors walked away from a project because there was too large of a short-term loss and a lack of commitment on the part of the investors combined with mismanagement. In short, they fraudulently proposed and committed themselves to (the) project and then left buyers, workers, vendors and the government high and dry with debt and no resort.
It is important to understand that in the U.S. they would have been unable to legally avoid financial responsibility. They would have had to declare bankruptcy and have a court approved plan to pay off debtors.
But in Mexico laws are such that rich developers can more readily get away with such unethical practices. I suspect Grenada also has a limited legal system that attracts the likes of Rob Oveson and his ilk.
As a public service, this newspaper reproduces the full interview conducted with Dr. Sternfeld:
NEW TODAY: How did you get in contact with Mr. Oveson?
Dr. Sternfeld: I was invited to a “Discovery Weekend or Week” down in Mexico where we went to the property. It was pretty much an all-inclusive expense trip with exception of the travel expenses down to the property where it was being built at the time – that was about December of 2007 and we stayed there on the property and (were) shown the condominiums that had been built and the restaurant that was operational and the pool that was operational and that is what (influenced me). So he presented the resort that was in the process of being built and I agreed to build a house in the resort
NEW TODAY: How much money was actually involved in the project with him?
Dr. Sternfeld: Between $600,000 and $700,000
NEW TODAY: That is what it would have cost you for your condo?
Dr. Sternfeld: We built a house, not a condominium.
NEW TODAY: Did you give him all the money or you gave him some?
Dr. Sternfeld: We gave him pretty much all the money…Just about all the money… towards the very end of the process, he had run out of money and we had to go down to the property and pay off all the vendors who had not been paid and also arrange to pay for the vendors and workers to finish the house.
NEW TODAY: So you still have that property?
Dr. Sternfeld: I still possess the property. I do not have title to the property. The property can very easily be taken away from me because the contract included getting clear title to my property for which Mr. Oveson has not fulfilled his contract.
NEW TODAY: After you ran into difficulties with Mr. Oveson, did you have any dialogue with him in regards to him fulfilling his part of the contractual arrangements and what was his response if there was any contact between both of you?
Dr. Sternfeld: We had contract with him up until around the time we agreed to finish the house in lieu of giving him the money to finish the house. After which he stopped communicating with me personally, despite multiple attempts to talk to him personally or through his attorney (Claudia Torpila) back in California.
NEW TODAY: Did you ever consider probably taking legal action against Mr. Oveson?
Dr. Sternfeld: We’ve been involved with multiple legal interventions with Mr. Oveson as a group of homeowners and condominium owners throughout the years. We have contemplated taking actions here in the United States against him but have been advised by our Attorneys that the cost in doing so would be prohibitive – it would just be too much money to try and sue him and at the likelihood of being successful, in terms of getting what we want, which would be our money back for the property being taken care of was low.
So it was the cost involved that really prohibited us from doing things here in the United States. We have been trying to act on a legal basis in Mexico (as a group of homeowners) to try to get title to the property and that kind of failed.
NEW TODAY: The fact the incident took place in Mexico, I understand that there was probably some attempt made to take legal action against him in Mexico – are you aware of anything like that?
Dr. Sternfeld: I’m aware that one person by the name of Mason, a Canadian by the name of Mason. He was able to successfully sue him because they took his money but never provided the condominium – never built the condominium. That was successful.
We are engaged in several legal actions right now, legal activities, I don’t think there are any lawsuits but there is legal activity involved in trying to get Mr. Oveson to pay his bills, to pay for the titling process etc. The homeowners on multiple occasions have stepped to the front and paid off his financial obligations to the unions, to the Federal governments etc in order to prevent our property from being taken away from us.
NEW TODAY: Could you give me a kind of ball park figure as to how much money that you are being forced to come up with to fulfill those obligations that really should have been done by Mr. Oveson?
Dr. Sternfeld: I would just be guessing but if you, I’m sure you have been in contact with Gewhiler…he would have the exact amount of money that has been put forward and paid off to unions, labour unions, past employees, the government etc, vendors that have been paid off up to date by the homeowners in order to prevent our properties from being taken away. He would have the exact number. I don’t really have a number that you can bank on.
NEW TODAY: I did mention to you that Mr. Oveson is here in Grenada operating – trying to do a development. If you had to advise perspective investors with Mr. Oveson, what would you tell them?
Dr. Sternfeld: I would tell them to run away as fast as they can, that he is a fraud. He is just there to take their money and that he is an unethical businessman and people shouldn’t deal with him unless they are planning to get their money taken away.