Investors in Donald Trump's Failed Baja Oceanfront Resort Project Speak Out
Investors in Donald Trump's Failed Mexico Resort Speak Out (KPBS News)
On her 65th birthday last year, Sylvia Villavicencio — once a Donald Trump devotee — pummeled a Mexican piñata of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Her guests poked out the eyes and tore off the legs.
“We wanted to express our feelings and vent our anger,” said her husband, Mike Rodriguez, a retired real estate builder. They live in Madera, in California's Central Valley.
The couple is unlike most buyers of Trump piñatas, which have found a market on both sides of the border since Trump's political rise. They dislike him not because of his hard-line immigration policy proposals or his remarks about minorities, although those have added fuel. The root of their anger is a sense of profound, personal betrayal. They believe millions of Americans will soon experience it, too.
In 2007, Villavicencio and Rodriguez considered themselves among Trump’s biggest fans. When they heard he was building an oceanfront resort on a cliff in Tijuana, where both had family, they rushed to purchase two condominiums. About 250 other people, mostly from Southern California, also bought units.
Trump was one of the world’s most famous magnates. They were sure the project would prove a solid investment. A brochure for the Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico described Trump as “the very definition of the American success story.” Rodriguez and Villavicencio ascribed to this notion. “I gave him all of my trust,” Rodriguez said. “When I heard it was him, I dropped all of my defenses.”
They believed Trump was a co-developer of the project — the brochures, videos and other promotional materials prominently featured his name. In August 2007, buyers received a letter that identified Trump as a co-developer, signed by Trump.
Another fact sheet said, “Mr. Trump is personally involved in everything that his name represents.”
In a promotional video, Trump appeared on camera, praising the project and its location in Mexico: “One of the things I most love about the project is the fact that it’s in Baja, Mexico, and Baja is one of the really hot places,” Trump said.
When the U.S. housing bubble collapsed and the three-tower project failed, Trump claimed he was not a developer on the project — that he had only licensed the rights to his name. When their deposits disappeared, the Rodriguez couple and about 100 others sued for fraud in separate lawsuits. The builders had spent their deposits on construction. Trump, the developer Irongate and its affiliate PB Impulsores settled under confidential terms.
Read the rest at KPBS
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