Councilman partied with company at center of fraud allegations

Councilman partied with company at center of fraud allegations

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by STUART WATSON / NewsChannel 36

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on December 15, 2010 at 3:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 15 at 3:01 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A York County Councilman was paid to travel and recruit business by a Fort Mill financial services company now under investigation by the FBI and accused in numerous lawsuits of fraud.

Bank records obtained in a lawsuit show Advantage Financial Corporation paid Paul Lindemann's travel from an account including clients' money which was reserved for real estate costs. Last year Advantage Financial paid for Councilman Lindeman to fly to Atlantic City and Miami Beach and stay in luxury resorts. 

Councilman Lindemann says he had no knowledge at the time that he was paid out of investors' escrow funds, reserved by contract for real estate costs, and is a victim the same as investors.

"I never in a million years would have thought that's exactly what they were doing," said Lindemann. "I didn't think I actually knew people that had that much gall to spend other people's money."

Lindemann says an FBI agent spoke to him but he is not the subject of the investigation. 

Lindemann says Advantage Financial owes him and his partner hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Councilman says the trips were strictly business, aimed at recruiting clients. 

But some investors want to know why Lindemann did not question where the money was coming from, since at the time Advantage Financial was bringing few real estate loans to close. 

"The took advantage of people while they were in distress," says Hugh "Wink" Rea, a Fort Mill Developer who deposited $173,000 in escrow to secure a loan for a luxury home development in Lancaster County called the Regions at Bretagne. Rea says Advantage stepped in and promised access to capital when traditional bank financing dried up. 

But despite Advantage's promises, the loan for the Regions at Bretagne never came, and plans for a neighborhood of European-style villas costing upwards of a million dollars each gave way to empty fields dotted with white PVC pipe poking up through the weeds. 

"It's not the fact of how they took the money; it's how they spent the money," said Rea.  

In March of 2009, Advantage flew Lindemann to Miami Beach along with employees, where bank records show the company spent tens of thousands of dollars staying at the Delano and Fontainebleau hotels, renting a Rolls Royce, drinking at Miami Beach hot spots, and at strip clubs. 

Lindemann says he did not go to any strip club but does not remember the names of the clubs he visited. "We did go to some clubs and we did go to some nice restaurants while we were down there and they were entertaining clients....I was there for the business." 

Lindemann captured headlines in July 2008 when he his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in Columbia was captured on video, his third arrest for DUI in eight years. He later pled guilty to a lesser charge. 

Bank records show Advantage Financial paid $2860 to Carefree Lifestyles for a car rental. Lindemann says he remembers riding in a Rolls Royce to pick up clients, saying "there was only one way with them and it was all out." 

Bank statements show Advantage paid more than $3,153 for a bar tab at the Mynt Lounge in Miami Beach. The club's website boasts the venue attracts the "famous and the fabulous" including glitterati like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. "These individuals were living and living large out of these escrow accounts," said "Wink" Rea. 

Bank records show a $610 charge at "Turntable Entertainment and Production Company." Florida licensure records show the main address for the company is the same as a strip club called the "Booby Trap." Advantage Financial incurred two charges of $207 each at an ATM at 29 NE 11th Street in Miami, adjacent to another strip club called the "Gold Rush." 

BB&T records also show someone at Advantage used a company card for twenty consecutive cash withdrawals of $800 each at the Chase Bank ATM at 1901 Alton Road in Miami Beach. Lindemann says he has no idea who made the withdrawals and rarely saw Advantage principals use cash. 

Advantage also flew Lindemann to Atlantic City where he stayed at the Harrah's resort and casino, although Lindemann says he did not gamble. Bank statements show an Advantage card holder withdrew $3,000 in cash on two separate occasions at a Harrah's ATM and charged a purchase of $10.350 at Harrah's.  

Bank records also show Advantage spent thousands of dollars in the Charlotte area at Finks Jewelers and Nordstrom's department store in the SouthPark Mall in, along with still more thousands at Epicenter clubs including Mez, Suite and Whiskey River. "It was a virtual spending playground," said Rea. 

"That's the way they rolled," says Lindemann who says he was convinced that Advantage was closing loans, although he says none of the loans he recruited for Advantage were ever funded.

Lindemann estimates he and his partner at their company, Pinecrest Holdings, were paid between $30,000 and $50,000 by Advantage as an "advance" against loans which were expected to close. 

Advantage Financial's managing partners Craig Richards and Tom Brandenburg located the company on the second floor of a building on Market Street in the Village of Baxter in Fort Mill.

The NewsChannel 36 I-Team attempted to reach Brandenburg by phone and Richards by phone and by visiting his $800,000 home off Marvin Road near Waxhaw, but our calls were not returned. 

The FBI is investigating the collapse of Advantage Financial but no one has been charged. 

Craig Richards has formed a new company and is still working in financial services. 

 "It's sad. It really is," said Lindemann. "In the end it's sad." 

"Wink" Rea had a different emotion. He said, "I was sick. I was sickened." Last year Advantage Financial paid for Councilman Lindeman to fly to Atlantic City and Miami Beach and stay in luxury resorts. 

Councilman Lindemann says he had no knowledge at the time that he was paid out of investors' escrow funds, reserved by contract for real estate costs, and is a victim the same as investors.

"I never in a million years would have thought that's exactly what they were doing," said Lindemann. "I didn't think I actually knew people that had that much gall to spend other people's money."

Lindemann says an FBI agent spoke to him but he is not the subject of the investigation. 

Lindemann says Advantage Financial owes him and his partner hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Councilman says the trips were strictly business, aimed at recruiting clients. 

But some investors want to know why Lindemann did not question where the money was coming from, since at the time Advantage Financial was bringing few real estate loans to close. 

"The took advantage of people while they were in distress," says Hugh "Wink" Rea, a Fort Mill Developer who deposited $173,000 in escrow to secure a loan for a luxury home development in Lancaster County called the Regions at Bretagne. Rea says Advantage stepped in and promised access to capital when traditional bank financing dried up. 

But despite Advantage's promises, the loan for the Regions at Bretagne never came, and plans for a neighborhood of European-style villas costing upwards of a million dollars each gave way to empty fields dotted with white PVC pipe poking up through the weeds. 

"It's not the fact of how they took the money; it's how they spent the money," said Rea.  

In March of 2009, Advantage flew Lindemann to Miami Beach along with employees, where bank records show the company spent tens of thousands of dollars staying at the Delano and Fontainebleau hotels, renting a Rolls Royce, drinking at Miami Beach hot spots, and at strip clubs. 

Lindemann says he did not go to any strip club but does not remember the names of the clubs he visited. "We did go to some clubs and we did go to some nice restaurants while we were down there and they were entertaining clients....I was there for the business." 

Lindemann captured headlines in July 2008 when he his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in Columbia was captured on video, his third arrest for DUI in eight years. He later pled guilty to a lesser charge. 

Bank records show Advantage Financial paid $2860 to Carefree Lifestyles for a car rental. Lindemann says he remembers riding in a Rolls Royce to pick up clients, saying "there was only one way with them and it was all out." 

Bank statements show Advantage paid more than $3,153 for a bar tab at the Mynt Lounge in Miami Beach. The club's website boasts the venue attracts the "famous and the fabulous" including glitterati like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. "These individuals were living and living large out of these escrow accounts," said "Wink" Rea. 

Bank records show a $610 charge at "Turntable Entertainment and Production Company." Florida licensure records show the main address for the company is the same as a strip club called the "Booby Trap." Advantage Financial incurred two charges of $207 each at an ATM at 29 NE 11th Street in Miami, adjacent to another strip club called the "Gold Rush." 

BB&T records also show someone at Advantage used a company card for twenty consecutive cash withdrawals of $800 each at the Chase Bank ATM at 1901 Alton Road in Miami Beach. Lindemann says he has no idea who made the withdrawals and rarely saw Advantage principals use cash. 

 Advantage also flew Lindemann to Atlantic City where he stayed at the Harrah's resort and casino, although Lindemann says he did not gamble. Bank statements show an Advantage card holder withdrew $3,000 in cash on two separate occasions at a Harrah's ATM and charged a purchase of $10.350 at Harrah's.  

Bank records also show Advantage spent thousands of dollars in the Charlotte area at Finks Jewelers and Nordstrom's department store in the SouthPark Mall in, along with still more thousands at Epicenter clubs including Mez, Suite and Whiskey River. "It was a virtual spending playground," said Rea. 

"That's the way they rolled," says Lindemann who says he was convinced that Advantage was closing loans, although he says none of the loans he recruited for Advantage were ever funded.

Lindemann estimates he and his partner at their company, Pinecrest Holdings, were paid between $30,000 and $50,000 by Advantage as an "advance" against loans which were expected to close. 

Advantage Financial's managing partners Craig Richards and Tom Brandenburg located the company on the second floor of a building on Market Street in the Village of Baxter in Fort Mill.

The NewsChannel 36 I-Team attempted to reach Brandenburg by phone and Richards by phone and by visiting his $800,000 home off Marvin Road near Waxhaw, but our calls were not returned. 

The FBI is investigating the collapse of Advantage Financial but no one has been charged. 

Craig Richards has formed a new company and is still working in financial services. 

"It's sad. It really is," said Lindemann. "In the end it's sad." 

"Wink" Rea had a different emotion. He said, "I was sick. I was sickened."

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