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US investors seek return of 'lost' Caribbean resort property

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FRIGATE BAY, St. Kitts: A group of nearly 120 US investors are entangled in a civil suit in a small Caribbean nation where they claim their money, and the 15 acre resort their life savings were entrusted to build and operate, was "lost."

The claimants before the High Court in St. Kitts, led by representatives Richard Rowe, a Federal Express pilot from Niceville, Florida, and Mark Secrist, an American Airlines pilot from Winchester, Virginia, discovered that they were victims of an apparent investment fraud involving the former and current "owners" of the Angelus Resort, St. Kitts resort in April of 2003. Roland M. Thomas, 55, a British citizen acting as CEO of the Angelus, has denied any knowledge of the investors' interest in the property.

Thomas, during the terminal illness of the former owner of what was once called the Paradise Beach Resort & Casino, took control of the Frigate Bay, St. Kitts, resort in May 2003. Thomas changed the name of Paradise Beach Resorts to the Angelus.

According to four "whistle-blower" affidavits by former Angelus employees, Thomas, with the assistance of two local St. Kitts lawyers, allegedly packed and shipped several boxes of records off-island after the court ordered the officers of the Angelus, which would include Thomas, to produce them. The claimants also allege breach of fiduciary duty by the former owners and officers of the Angelus, who provided what was claimed to be expert business, investment and tax planning services to the Claimants.

On April 8th, 2005, Justice Davidson Baptiste, St. Kitts, ordered that all outstanding applications be heard by the Master in chambers on April 27th, 2005. Court records show that the Angelus, their officers and two of their lawyers have been accused by the claimants of being in contempt of Court for disobeying Justice Baptiste's February 2004 order to produce records.

In July 2004, the High Court struck out the contempt proceedings against Thomas and the other lay respondents because they were not first warned of the consequences of disobeying a court order; but the contempt proceedings remain outstanding against two of the defendants' St. Kitts lawyers, Larkland Richards and Sylvester Anthony. The Claimants' contempt application is on hold pending their appeal of the July 2004 order striking it out in respect of the lay respondents.

In addition, Thomas, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, is, according to an April 5th, 2005 Complaint, Securities and Exchange Commission v. SeaLife Corporation et al., alleged to have participated in a scheme to fraudulently manipulate the price of the shares of SeaLife from December 2002 to August 2003. The SEC Complaint also names ERT Technology Corporation, a Delaware corporation owned by Thomas, as a party to the civil fraud.