Running Horse Revival?

July 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The grass is dead, the trees are dying and this doesn't look like a championship golf course.The State of California is accusing the original developers of defrauding investors. But, one of those investors is joining with one of those developers, to bring this project back to life.

Fresno Architect Gary Vigan stands at a giant map of the project and explains, "On the first phase of work what we're trying to do is do the first project, which is what we call Cypress."

Vigen lost $650,000 dollars in the now bankrupt Running Horse golf and country club project he's now trying to revive; but not by himself. He's working with one of the original developers, Scott Webb. Vigan said Webb has lined up the financing. "Mr. Scott has a letter of commitment for 70 million." He says.

Scott Webb and Tom O'Meara started the project and is now the target of a state investigation. The Department of Real Estate has issued a complaint which reads: "O'Meara and Webb devised a plan and scheme to confuse and defraud individuals to lend or invest their money in the Running Horse Development."

The complaint accuses the men of doing things like issuing deeds to the same piece of property to several investors.

The State Department of Real Estate is taking action to go after their licenses to operate as real estate brokers. Agency spokesman Tom Pool explains," We believe the respondents violated in part various provisions of the real estate law. And the goal of the process is obviously getting that license disciplined or revoked."

But Gary Vigan stands behind Webb and O'Meara. He said," I would not be here if I thought they were crooks. They lost everything they had. They didn't abscond with money over to the Cayman Islands or a Swiss bank, that I know of."

And Vigan says if he is successful, those who invested in the project, and the contractors who are owed money may see some of their money back. "Okay, you're not going to get a hundred cents on the dollar. But if you stay with us and work with us we're gonna get you something." He says.

But in addition to the case brought by the California Department of Real Estate, other probes of Running Horse are underway, and Pool said the information contained in the complaint filed by the state may be used as evidence in court. "Anything that is presented at the hearing and any testimony for that matter can be used in a criminal or civil proceeding."

Vigan isn't deterred. He believes construction can get underway in August. He says Running Horse could be in shape for a PGA tour event in 2010.

That was the lure that brought even Donald Trump to look at the Running Horse Project. But, in the end the billionaire was not willing to risk his money on the project.

Tom O'Meara and Scott Webb were not available for comment.


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