Embattled Palm House developer Robert Matthews agrees to federal securities charges

Matthews once promised Celine Dion, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton would be on the hotel’s advisory board

Robert Matthews and Palm House Hotel
Robert Matthews and Palm House Hotel

The developer behind a Palm Beach condo-hotel project that once promised foreign investors that Celine Dion, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton would be on the advisory board has consented to federal securities charges.

Robert Matthews agreed to charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he defrauded EB-5 investors of his Palm House Hotel project and used the money to pay off personal loans and to purchase a luxury home in Washington Depot, Connecticut.

A U.S. District judge in Miami ruled in favor of the SEC on Wednesday after Matthews previously consented to the charges. As a result of the ruling, Matthews is permanently enjoined from ever selling securities in the future. He previously denied the charges.

The Palm Beach Daily News first reported the judge’s ruling.

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The move is the latest blow to Matthews, the one-time high flying, real estate developer in Palm Beach, who lived in a 12,077-square-foot waterfront mansion and once drew comparisons to the fictional Jay Gatsby. His lavish lifestyle included hosting extravagant parties and possessing an original Bill of Rights.

Today, Matthews is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in April to federal charges of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. His former Palm Beach home was taken over by its mortgage lender. In July it sold for $30.2 million in a court-appointed auction.

Matthews’ wife Maria “Mia” Matthews, an actress who starred in the Nickelodeon show “Every Witch Way,” also pleaded guilty to tax evasion in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut in April.

Matthews began pitching the hotel project to foreign investors who were looking to get green cards through the federal EB-5 program in 2012. He said he would rehabilitate the dilapidated Palm House Hotel at 160 Royal Palm Way into a 5-star hotel that would be completed in less than a year.

Instead of injecting the $44 million he received from investors into the project, Matthews used the money to buy a 151-foot yacht named “Alibi” as well as the Washington Depot property. Seven years later, the hotel project remains unfinished and was sold in bankruptcy auction in March to a U.S. affiliate of London + Regional Properties for $39.6 million.