Lawsuits Pile Up Against Former Olympian

     VENTURA, Calif. (CN) – Former world champion figure skater Tim Wood duped a California couple for $150,000 for a sports complex he never intended to build – and they’re not the only ones, attorneys say.
     The May 29 Superior Court lawsuit from Monica and Jason Friedman is one of seven against Wood and his company TLW Sports that claim Wood took money for an ambitious sports complex to be built in West Sacramento.
     “The Sports Resort was never anything more than fiction,” the Friedmans say in the complaint.
     Wood did not return calls seeking comment. Wood won the World Figure Skating Championships in 1969 and 1970, and a silver medal in the 1968 winter Olympics.
     After skating professionally with the Ice Capades, Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice, he went to graduate school in accounting, according to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, and moved on to “the Olympics in the world of finance.”
     In 1996, he formed a limited liability company, TLW, which has been suspended by the California Secretary of State, according to another lawsuit filed against Wood.
     As far back as 1990, according to the Pioneer Press story from 1998, Wood talked about building an Olympic-style training center, though he initially focused on Camarillo.
     More recently, the Friedmans claim, he recruited investors for a sports complex in West Sacramento.
     Wood described the complex in a 2012 About.com story quoted in the complaint.
     “The Sports Resort will be the first of its kind in the United States as a master planned healthy living/lifestyle community, in a mixed use development, themed for sports, recreation, and family entertainment as a destination resort complete with sports venues housing 72 world and Olympic sports, cultural and performing arts, and academic facilities situated on approximately 1,500 acres, making it the largest sports project in North America.’
     Wood said the resort would include scholarships for sports, education and the arts.
     The Friedmans say they were impressed by that vision, by Wood’s athletic background and the fact that he was “an honest Christian.” They say they gave him $150,000 in 2008.
     Other investors also ponied up, according to a 2012 adversary complaint from Wood’s bankruptcy case, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Barbara.
     “(Wood) received at least one and a half million dollars from private investors who were induced to buy into a plan to build a multi-use real estate development; a plan only on paper,” attorney Timothy Umbreit wrote. “A development that does not exist.”
     Umbreit wrote that Wood never had a purchase agreement for acreage in West Sacramento, never had a land use analysis, nor architectural plans nor the $8.75 million in capitalization he boasted.
     Umbreit represents PR&K, a limited liability company, in a similar lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court.
     Umbreit said he could not comment on that case because it is still pending.
     But in the bankruptcy complaint, he said, Wood never paid investors, never made progress toward the project and had “nothing to show for those monies besides a series of civil actions and bankruptcy filings.”
     In 2009, Wood allegedly told PR&K he was in final negotiations with investment brokers, bankers, real estate professionals and the city, and planned to have final funding by that fall. PR&K says it lost $160,000 on the project, on which it was promised 10 percent returns.
     “Wood knew that all of the funds provided by PR&K to Wood and TLW would, in fact, be converted by Wood for his personal use,” Umbreit wrote in the 2012 civil complaint.
     According to the Friedmans lawsuit, Wood assured investors the sports resort would commence in 2010, with some venues opening in 2011 and the rest in 2012.
     But in December 2009, the Friedmans say, Wood told them a poor economy had delayed funding. Five years later, there were still no payouts and no complex, the Friedmans say, yet Wood continued to promise they’d see a return on their investment.
     The Friedmans say they didn’t know Wood had declared bankruptcy in 2011 or that six lawsuits had been filed against him regarding the complex.
     The Friedmans’ attorney David Voss was in Europe this week and unavailable for comment.
     According to PR&K’s adversary complaint, Wood has had five money judgments entered against him. Just days after the largest one – a $205,000 judgment in June of 2009 – Wood recruited PR&K to invest, Umbreit wrote.
     Like the Friedmans, PR&K said it did not know about Wood’s bankruptcy or lawsuits.
     Both the Friedmans and PR&K are seeking punitive damages for fraud.

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