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Date of Issue: October 11, 2007

Byrne, Noriega charged with fraud by creditors committee

GSR Development LLC principals Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega will have their day in court this January to answer charges that they participated in a criminal conspiracy while at the helm of the company, particularly in relation to a 2005 refinance arrangement for GSR’s Villa Rosa property in Anna Maria.

The two men, along with other “targets” specified by the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court in Tampa, have been charged in an “adversarial” proceeding by GSR’s official committee of unsecured creditors with a total of 14 offenses relating to the failed company. In the “adversarial proceeding,” neither Byrne, Noriega nor the “targets” are facing felony charges that could result in a jail sentence.

The 14 counts were presented in bankruptcy court in an effort by the committee to secure a portion of the $4.6 million in unsecured claims against the company made after Byrne and Noriega placed the company in bankruptcy in July 2006. Byrne, Noriega and GSR eventually abandoned all rights and interest in the company’s properties.

The court documents in the “adversarial” proceedings note that criminal charges “would have been brought in state court if unrelated to the bankruptcy.”

Among the charges against Byrne, Noriega and the “targets” are criminal usury, fraudulent inducement, civil conspiracy, intentional fraudulent transfers, breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence.

The creditors committee asked for a minimum judgment of $3 million plus expenses. Representing the committee are John Anthony, a Tampa attorney with a Holmes Beach residence, and attorney Cheryl Thompson.

Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May set a trial date of Jan. 10, 2008. Witness reports are due by Oct. 29 and May will hear arguments for a summary judgment on Dec. 3, 2007.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is located in downtown Tampa at 801 N. Florida Ave., Courtroom 9B.

Efforts to reach Byrne and Noriega for comment on the charges were unsuccessful.

Efforts to reach Byrne’s attorney, Patrick McNamara of Tampa, were also unsuccessful. The court documents indicate Noriega does not yet have an attorney to represent him in the case.

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