A South Florida land trust operator is deliberately misleading federal prosecutors by hiding multiple Palm Beach properties through bogus shell corporations, according to court documents. The homes include a luxury Hypoluxo Island condominium in West Palm Beach with ocean views and a Riviera Beach house.
Robert Vitale, whose land trust businesses were frozen Aug. 26 by the Florida Attorney General, pleaded guilty in June to obstruction of justice and lying to Securities and Exchange Commission investors about his assets, according to the Palm Beach Post. Vitale is also currently under investigation by the SEC for alleged investment fraud.
But since his June plea, prosecutors allege that Vitale has been playing a “cat and mouse” game by setting up companies to mask his properties, avoid paying fines, and “continue to lead a lavish lifestyle,” according to court documents seen by the newspaper. For example, after Vitale told officials that an acre of land in Boynton Beach was on the market for $1.5 million, prosecutors found that he had placed it on the market for $1.5 million.
Vitale could not be reached for comment by the Post.
“It’s just fraud on the public record,” Palm Beach County attorney Tim Morell, who specializes in real estate litigation, told the newspaper. “You don’t know who the owner of the home really is. It’s someone just trying to beat the system.” [Palm Beach Post] – Hiten Samtani