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Two foreclosure actions face former Nelson Poynter estate, Tampa Bay’s classiest ‘party house’

in Local Courts/Top Headlines by
Fazal Abbas Fazlin

Two friends are facing off in court over a defaulted loan secured by an old estate of the late St. Petersburg Times owner Nelson Poynter, once valued at nearly $10 million.

Fazal Abbas Fazlin is a 66-year-old engineer and a native of Pakistan.

In 2008, a New York Times column by Roger Cohen profiled Fazlin, a millionaire entrepreneur, Muslim, Republican and Richard Nixon fan who backed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

In 1999, Fazlin and then-wife Christina Marie Fazlin paid just over $2-million for a five-acre, 10,442-square-foot waterfront home in St. Petersburg’s Jungle Shores neighborhood once owned by Poynter.

Christina Fazlin relinquished her share of the home to Fazal in 2002, as part of their divorce. Christina, who now serves as president of Backbone Worldwide, married Burke Francisco Hedges in 2005, taking the name Christina Hedges.

Around 2014, Fazlin put the estate — which the Tampa Bay Times called Tampa Bay’s classiest ‘party house’ — up for sale, asking $9.9-million. The 2015 Times article reported the asking price had lowered to just under $6-million.

The Tampa Bay Times described the mansion as featuring “a football-field-long coastline, an infinity-edge pool, an air-conditioned five-car garage and a 250-foot dock,” with a “massage room and sauna, a home theater, custom his-and-her closets and a 1,200-bottle wine cellar.”

Kelly Schmidt

Kelly Schmidt, 56, lives in a Belleair Shores home appraised by the county at $2.6-million and priced at $4.6-million, according to Zillow.com.

Tampa Bay Magazine reported that Kelly Schmidt and her husband Bob Schmidt — the current mayor of Belleair Shores — sailed from Brazil to St. Petersburg with Fazal Fazlin and another couple.

In 2015, Bob Schmidt sued Kelly for divorce; the case is unresolved as of May 2017.

In 2016, Kelly Schmidt issued a short-term, $232,000 loan to her friend Fazal Fazlin. The original terms of the loan were that it would be paid off within four months.

Fazlin used his mansion as collateral for the loan.

Nevertheless, according to a lawsuit filed May 5 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Schmidt says Fazlin never made any payments. Kelly Schmidt is seeking the whole sum, plus interest.

However, Pinellas court records show that Bank of America previously filed suit on Fazlin’s mansion, after Fazlin secured a $2-million line of credit in 2002, also using the home as collateral. He later defaulted on the credit line.

A complaint in January 2016 said Fazlin, along with his ex-wife Christina Hedges, owed $2-million in principal plus more than a year’s worth of interest and late charges. It is unclear whether Hedges deserves to be named in the suit since she was no longer on the deed.

Despite that, the lender was able to obtain a default judgment against Hedges. The ongoing foreclosure case against Fazlin is on the docket for a nonjury trial scheduled Sept. 28.

Since Bank of America — or its successor — holds the first mortgage on Fazlin’s waterfront mansion, it’s unlikely Kelly Schmidt will successfully foreclose.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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