By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The alleged victims of a Bahamas real estate fraud were yesterday labelled “a group of spoiled rich kids”, who were seeking to extort money from the vendors via ‘blackmail’.
Keith De Cay, who sought to broker a settlement with the group, headed by US citizen John Brier, alleged that he only persuaded the Long Island land’s vendor, Billy Wayne Davis, to sign the agreement as a way to “preserve my life savings”.
Mr De Cay accused Mr Brier and his group of seeking “to destroy” a project, in which he has supposedly invested, and lies on land owned by Mr Davis’s Long Island Investments vehicle.
That project, known as Eco Village Bahamas, is purported being developed by a third party developer, David Campbell, who splits his time between Canada and Switzerland.
“He originally told [us] that he had the exclusive rights to all of the land Mr Davis was selling through a joint venture agreement between them, and that he would work with [us] to turn ‘lemons into lemonade’,” Mr Brier and his three fellow investors alleged in court documents obtained by Tribune Business.
The somewhat mysterious Eco Village Bahamas has its own website, but it is unclear whether the project has obtained the necessary permits and approvals from the Government to proceed. Its Nassau office is listed as at the Priderock Corporate Centre, the same location as the Priderock Law Chambers, whose principal, Philip Lundy, also does legal work for Mr Davis.
Mr Davis, who has had a long and colourful career in real estate sales in the Family Islands, especially Rum Cay, was tight-lipped on Eco Village Bahamas in an e-mailed reply to Tribune Business’s questions.
“I cannot say much about the Eco Village because I have signed a confidential agreement, except that it’s a major reality by a group of Europeans that I’m in daily conversations with,” he said.
“It is another project that I have brought to the Bahamas. I also know that they have hired attorneys in Nassau for what they need, and have had meetings with some Government people.”
Mr Davis, who initially said he would be unable to respond to Tribune Business until next week because of family health issues, sent this newspaper two separate e-mails yesterday on the dispute with Mr Brier and his fellow investors.
He said he was “not in a settlement agreement” with the group, “nor will I be as I am not personally involved”, even though he is one of the signatories to the allegedly-breached March 31, 2015, settlement agreement.
Mr Davis also made the same ‘blackmail’ charges against Mr Brier and his fellow investors as those levied by Mr De Cay, although the latter failed to provide Tribune Business with any documents to support such claims despite this newspaper’s request.
“Keith is heavily involved with the Eco Village as an owner and investor,” Mr Davis added, implying that he was set to make complaints of his own against Mr Brier to the federal authorities.
However, Mr Brier, in court flings in the north Florida federal courts, emphatically refuting the ‘blackmail’ and extortion allegations.
“Contrary to [Mr de Cay’s] allegations, which he made for the first time after we filed this lawsuit, that he was ‘blackmailed’ into entering into the settlement agreement, defendant was actually the one who first approached us about working out a settlement deal, encouraged us to enter into the settlement agreement and spent weeks negotiating a deal before the parties executed the settlement agreement,” he responded.
“To the contrary, as reflected in all of the foregoing e-mail communications, the settlement agreement and amended agreement were the product of negotiations that defendant initiated.
Mr De Cay, though, while conceding that the land sales to Mr Brier’s group were illegal because the lots were not in an approved subdivision, as required by the Planning and Subdivisions Act, stuck to his ‘blackmail’ claims.
He claimed in responses to Tribune Business that he only became involved in brokering a settlement so as to protect his Eco Village investment, and end the negative publicity stemming from the 14 websites Mr Brier created to attack Mr Davis and his partner, Albert Jansen.
Asking why he exposed himself to tremendous risk and financial liability by taking responsibility for paying out Mr Brier and the other investors, Mr De Cay replied: “I started buying land from Billy in 2009, and have all of my life savings tied up in the Eco Village project.
“John Brier wants to destroy the project, and I am not going to let that happened. If John [was a good person he would have helped Billy and the Eco Village people more the project forward sooner, so they could make money and help the people on Long Island with jobs and make the island better.”
Mr De Cay said the land purchases were the only links between himself and Long Island Investments, and he added: “I have my life savings tied up in the Eco Village, and made a bad decision to let myself be blackmailed by John because of my fear of being penny-less. This was one of the worst decision of my life.”
When asked why Mr Davis admitted to “false and deceptive” practices in signing the settlement agreement with Mr Brier’s group, Mr De Cay explained this away by saying he wanted to preserve his Eco Village investment.
“I got Billy to agree to their lies to help me out, because if the Eco Village doesn’t happen, I nothing at age 60,” he said.
Mr De Cay, who said is a former US law enforcement officer, alleged that the settlement agreement was contrived to disguise the payment of so-called ‘blackmail’ money.
“It is just plain and simple a group of spoiled rich kids that are mad at the world and the people of the Bahamas because they feel you guys took their money,” Mr De Cay said.
“What they did was make an investment, and an investment can go up or down and that is life.”
However, Mr Brier and his investors responded that it was Mr De Cay who initiated the settlement talks, and that he was never coerced into them.
Pointing out that the talks lasted for three weeks, they alleged: “As such, the settlement agreement was not the product of ‘blackmail’, extortion, duress, threats or any related theory.
“Rather, the undisputed facts demonstrate that it was the product of a negotiated resolution to a dispute. After defendant negotiated and executed the settlement agreement, defendant performed for several months making timely payments, without objection.
“Plaintiffs’ efforts to expose the sellers [Mr Davis] for their misrepresentations, through both the website and by contacting the FBI, had nothing to do with defendant,” the Brier group added.
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of threats being made against the defendant for the purpose of forcing him to enter the agreements.”