Former Red Rose Inn owner profits big, owes big on questionable vehicle transfers

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

SPIRO-1666407Louis Spiro made millions last month on the sale of Plant City’s iconic Red Rose Inn Hotel, netting him the kind of cash with which he can afford pretty much anything he wants.

So why should the 63-year-old Pinellas Park resident allegedly owe over questionable vehicle transfers — for a relatively minuscule amount?

In August 2015, Alex Lyon & Son Sales Managers loaned Automotive Fleet Enterprises $50,000 toward purchases of five Volvo trucks. The purchases by the Pinellas Park company were for $128,199.

Lyon & Sons and Auctioneers Inc., based in Bridgeport, New York, is one of the largest auction companies in the United States.

Spiro owns Automotive Fleet Enterprises as well as LBMT Properties, which paid $1.5-million in 2013 for the Red Rose Inn.

After extensive renovations, LBMT Properties sold the 261-room hotel June 16 to Scott Modist and David Hatton for $3.85 million. The sale netted LBMT $2.35 million profit for Spiro — a whopping 157 percent — in roughly 2.5 years.

However, the new owners have been mired in controversy since the pair were previously executives at Acquinity Interactive, a now-defunct online marketing company sued in 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission for an alleged role in an international network of text scammers.

As good as Spiro’s profit may have been on the Red Rose Inn sale, Lyon & Sons accuse Spiro of failing to repay the balance owed for the trucks of $61,351.

Two checks of $10,000 and a check for $5,000 were sent toward the balance but according to court documents all communication ceased April 7, with no further payments forthcoming and Spiro still on the hook for the remaining money.

On June 23, Lyons & Sons filed suit in Pinellas County Court, claiming Spiro still owed $61,351, having been “enriched” by the use of the purchased trucks.

In addition, Spiro was arrested in January for a “scheme to defraud,” when Indiana-based United Leasing LLC also filed a complaint in Pinellas County.

According to the county arrest warrant, Spiro was shipping vehicles purchased by United for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” over a six-week period, yet failing to include one vehicle with every shipment.

Court documents say Spiro suggested the missing trucks did not have “proper titles” and that he was “working on obtaining the titles.”

Spiro then agreed to send United Leasing $58,000, but only sent $20,000. Plaintiffs say he then ceased communication. Fourteen vehicles were purchased, court documents say, but never delivered, worth $419,500. Pretrial for the case is set for July 28.

When contacted, Spiro — who seemed agitated at the question — simply said “it’s been paid” and “it’s none of your business.”

Upon further investigation, it’s unclear exactly what has been “paid,” and no other parties — including attorneys from both sides — have responded to requests for comment.