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Lawsuits Against Lance Robbins Still Being Pursued

A lawsuit alleges racketeering by Coltsville developer

Daniel D’Ambrosio

July 13, 2010

Hartford Attorneys for Frank Gamwell, the California developer pursuing a $29 million fraud judgment against Coltsville developer Lance Robbins, have kept alive a related lawsuit accusing Robbins of racketeering by filing the action in federal court.

As the Advocate reported last month, Gamwell’s attorneys originally filed the racketeering lawsuit in California state court, but Robbins had it moved to federal court where it was partially dismissed because it didn’t meet federal guidelines. The federal judge gave Gamwell’s attorneys three weeks to amend the lawsuit to comply with federal guidelines, which they have now done.

Robbins is at the center of the latest effort to transform the decaying complex of former Colt factory buildings into a viable mixed-use development that would include a visitor’s center for a proposed national historic park.

Coltsville has already received National Historic Landmark status, the first step toward becoming a national park, but the National Park Service has balked at committing to the park while the complex remains mired in the failed efforts of a string of would-be developers. Now it looks like Robbins’ trouble with a former business partner might end up adding his name to that list of failures.

Frank Gamwell won the fraud judgment against Robbins in California Superior Court after proving to an arbitrator that Robbins had cheated him in business dealings they had together. Robbins is appealing the judgment.

The racketeering lawsuit followed when Robbins allegedly drained the assets from the two companies implicated in the fraud judgment, making it impossible for Gamwell to collect the $29 million he is owed. Those two companies — Rehabilitation Associates LLC and Fedeora Investment Corporation — are among dozens of companies Robbins has formed over the years.

Gamwell’s lawsuit claims Robbins used that network of companies to place false liens and foreclose on the assets of Rehab and Fedora, create false debts owed by Rehab and Fedora to other Robbins companies, and to transfer Rehab and Fedora’s “many millions of dollars of cash and real estate” to still other Robbins companies.

Robbins denies it all, and says Rehab and Fedora were victims of the worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Despite this backdrop of legal turmoil, the Capitol Region Education Council is moving forward with its plans to build a 50,000-square-foot annex to its School of Performing Arts in Colt’s Sawtooth building, which also houses Lexis/Nexis, and the South Armory, where the few dozen apartments that have been built at Colt are located. The Connecticut Development Authority subordinated a $2.15 million mortgage it holds on the South Armory to make CREC’s expansion possible.

CREC already occupies an entire building in the north end of the Colt complex, where it has offices and the River Street School for autistic children. Donald P. Walsh, CREC’s chief financial officer, says the organization is committed to the future of Coltsville, despite the project’s ongoing problems.

“We’re going to have more space than anybody in there,” says Walsh. “We think it’s good for the city of Hartford and good for our own neighborhood.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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