There's a bombshell of a story in this morning's Oregonian describing the spectacular crash-and-burn of one of the Central Oregon real estate boom's high rollers who the paper reports is now under investigation by the FBI and the IRS.
"As central Oregon's long real estate gold rush gives way to a grim new era of falling prices and foreclosures, few companies have crashed to earth harder than Bend-based Desert Sun Development," The Oregonian story begins.
"The upstart operation, led by its intense 29-year-old founder, Tyler Fitzsimons, is under siege from lenders, suppliers and contractors who say they've been stiffed for millions of dollars.
"But Desert Sun's problems go well beyond clamoring creditors, The Oregonian found in its examination of the company. It offered a homeownership program to more than 30 people, mostly employees, that has left many participants deeply in debt for houses that aren't complete or even started.
"The employee program is one of several aspects of Desert Sun that have drawn the attention of FBI and IRS agents in recent months. According to people quizzed by the agents, investigators are focusing on Desert Sun's financing and its relationship with a bevy of Oregon banks, which threw millions of dollars at the company.
"The unfolding saga reflects how the financial industry operated in central Oregon and elsewhere during the real estate boom. Banks lined up to back newly minted companies. They made huge loans to workers of limited means who couldn't afford the payments."
According to The Oregonian, when Fitzsimons was flying high he indulged himself by purchasing "expensive toys, including a 2006 Ferrari 430 Spider, boasting a base ticket price in excess of $200,000." Read the whole story on-line here.
Fitzsimons denies any wrongdoing. "There's nothing malicious going on," he told The Oregonian. "Yes, we're a victim of the market decline. But so is everybody else."
As of this morning, Desert Sun's website, desertsundevelopmentinc.com, apparently had been taken down.
The Eye is wondering why The Bulletin didn't jump all over this story. There were plenty of red flags about Fitzsimons and his company in the paper's own "News of Record" section, which reports lawsuit filings. Fitzsimons and/or Desert Sun have been named as defendants in no fewer than 17 suits filed by a swarm of suppliers, lenders and contractors going back to June 27, 2007.