Developer gets 65 months for multimillion dollar fraud scheme

Politically connected Robert Matthews’ luck finally ran out

Real Estate Developer Gets 5-year Prison Sentence
Robert Mathews (Getty)

Real estate developer Robert Matthews was sentenced in Connecticut federal court to over five years in prison for a series of multimillion frauds spanning Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida. 

The 65-year-old Matthews, who lives in West Palm Beach, faced charges of conspiracy, money laundering, and tax evasion related to real estate swindles that caused losses of over $30 million to banks and investors, the Hartford Courant reported.

During a four-hour sentencing hearing in Bridgeport, the judge handed down a 65-month sentence, less than the potential 15 years under advisory guidelines. 

Matthews had previously pleaded guilty to multiple frauds involving resort hotel projects in Nantucket, West Palm Beach, and a luxury home in Washington Depot, Litchfield County.

Matthews admitted to financing the projects in Florida and Connecticut through a scheme that raised funds under a state department visa program, luring foreign nationals to invest $500,000 in U.S. development projects. 

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He collected $500,000 each from 61 foreign investors, claiming it would be used to redevelop the Palm House Hotel in Palm Beach, promising a rival to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. However, prosecutors revealed that investors lost more than $30 million, while Matthews spent money on lavish expenses, including a 151-foot yacht named the Alibi and charity events.

Matthews has long been under the scrutiny of federal law enforcement, dating back to the 1990s when he was interviewed by the FBI regarding a cash payment to former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro. Although not charged at that time, Santopietro was later convicted for taking payoffs from real estate developers. Matthews was also associated with former Gov. John G. Rowland and was involved in a condominium deal with Rowland.

The fraudulent activities perpetrated by Matthews date back to 2007 when he cheated a banking lender of millions of dollars for the Nantucket resort project. He continued using similar tactics for the Palm House Hotel between 2012 and 2018, misappropriating funds for personal use. Matthews also evaded millions in taxes through shell companies and bank accounts held under other individuals’ names.

Matthews’ most ambitious project, the Palm House Hotel, involved attracting foreign investors with false claims and pictures of himself posing with Trump and the Clintons, although they were not involved in the venture.

“While running these various scams, the defendant evaded at least $[2.75 million] in tax, penalties and interest based on his failure to pay taxes in 2005 and 2007,” the prosecution said in a court filing. “Using shell companies and bank accounts in the names of other people, the defendant put real property, personal property, and cash assets beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Service.”

Ted Glanzer