PAWTUCKET, R.I. – After Rhode Island businessman Michael A. Mota announced this week that the former Memorial Hospital is “now ready and in move-in condition” to house homeless families, state housing officials and the executive director at Amos House say they aren’t moving forward “under current management.”
The decision by the state’s department of housing and Amos House, a nonprofit homeless service provider, to back away from the project abruptly puts an end to months of discussions with Mota, who had forged ahead with redeveloping the former hospital building. Emails obtained by the Globe through a public records request show that state housing officials and Amos House were considering plans to redevelop the former hospital with Mota as recently as March 30 — despite concerns about the ownership of the building, a doctrine of cy pres limiting the building’s use, and accusations that Mota and his companies owe nearly $750,000 to creditors and vendors in multiple states.
Documents from the city of Pawtucket show that Memorial Real Estate Group LLC – a company formed by Mota on Nov. 15, 2022 – was working on redeveloping the former hospital site after a sprinkler leak on Nov. 18, 2022 forced the evacuation of the homeless shelter run by Amos House there.
A building permit taken out on April 3 by Mota – with his father-in-law Joseph Ricci listed as the general contractor – described the work as “closing in rooms in the Amos House part of the building to get Amos House back in.” The permit notes that there will be 100 residents, and the work was estimated to cost $100,000.
A press release from MREG on Tuesday announced that “the section of the property dedicated to the Amos House is now ready and in move-in condition,” and in a Facebook Live video posted on April 16, which was shared with the Globe, Mota declared that the shelter space at Memorial was “ready to go” for “The Amos House Family Center.”
But a spokesman for the housing department told the Globe on April 13, “We have never had and do not have any arrangement with Mota and Ricci. For homeless providers including Amos House, we are currently searching for new locations for shelter beds.”
Eileen Hayes, executive director of Amos House, confirmed to the Globe on Thursday: “Amos House is not going to be renting the space at Memorial.”
Grace Voll, a spokeswoman for Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, said that the mayor and members of the city’s planning and zoning departments have had preliminary conversations with Mota about the Memorial Hospital property, “as we would out of courtesy with any potential developer for the city.”
The city has provided inspections and permits, she said, but has never been presented with an official plan by MREG. “While we do support the proper redevelopment of the former hospital,” she said, “Mr. Mota’s claim that we support his specific plan ‘100%’ is inaccurate.”
Speaking on behalf of Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor, Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for Governor Dan McKee, also told the Globe on Thursday that the housing department is “not working to get Amos House back into Memorial as a shelter.”
“Is Housing working with Mike Mota? No,” Sheaff added.
Mota is known in Rhode Island as the CEO of Skyline at Waterplace LLC, though he told the Globe in an email April 14 that he is no longer the venue’s CEO. He is, however, the company representative who signed the lease agreements, addressed the city Board of Licenses as Skyline’s CEO earlier this year and, along with Skyline’s lawyer, was the one to whom the city’s April 3 notification about the breach of the lease agreement was directed.
Mota is also the CEO of VirtualCons, his Hollywood-mobster themed entertainment and cryptocurrency company, as well as the president of Bayport International Holdings, a Florida-based real estate, technology, and entertainment company that acquired VirtualCons in September 2022.
Investors in VirtualCons who have been clamoring for their money back were instead awarded stock in Bayport, according to an April 4 announcement posted to the VirtualCons Facebook page. Bayport is labeled “buyer beware” by the OTC Markets with additional labels about limited disclosure of financial information. Its stock was worth a fraction of a penny on Thursday and currently cannot be traded. Its CEO is Jerrold Krystoff.
The state opened a shelter at the former Memorial Hospital site in December 2021. The lease, which was obtained by the Globe, was between Amos House and Lockwood Development Partners, signed by Hayes and Lockwood vice president Daniel McNulty. In it, Amos House agreed to pay $60,000 per month to Lockwood; the funds came from the state through an agreement with what is now the department of housing.
On Nov. 1, 2022, Hayes and a staff member at the department of housing signed an agreement to increase the capacity of the shelter at Memorial through July 2023. An additional $1.4 million in state funds was earmarked for this expansion.
But on Nov. 18, 2022, a sprinkler leak forced Amos House to evacuate everyone from the shelter at Memorial.
Soon after the sprinkler leak, Mota told then-housing secretary Joshua Saal that, as the president of Bayport, he represented former hospital’s owners and was helping them in a “voluntary foreclosure.”
Mota explained to Saal that Bayport had partnered with NextBank International in Puerto Rico, which had loaned money to the hospital building’s owner, Memorial Development LLC, which is a subsidiary of Lockwood Development Partners. Mota said the loan was in default, so the owner was giving up the building to Bayport in order to get free of the debt.
But Lockwood, which purchased the property for $250,000 from Care New England in 2021, still holds the property’s deed and city records show that its subsidiary, Memorial Development LLC, owes the city nearly $240,000 to the city in unpaid taxes. Lockwood’s principal, Charles Everhardt, has not responded to the Globe’s multiple requests for information.
According to their Tuesday press release, MREG has hired Hospitality Development Group Inc. to develop the former hospital building. Hospitality Development Group shares a Florida address with Bayport International Holdings. Bayport’s CEO, Krystoff, is also the chairman and CEO of Hospitality Development Group.
Krystoff did not respond to the Globe’s questions about Bayport, VirtualCons, or Memorial Hospital.
While Mota is not listed on the MREG or the Hospitality Development Group websites, his name appears as the applicant on multiple building permits for the Memorial Hospital project. On permits dated March 2, March 3 and March 8 he attests “I am the owner of this commercial building.” And he has been a main point of contact for email correspondence between Amos House, officials from the city of Pawtucket, and lawyers in Rhode Island.
A stop work order issued by the city on March 22 for lack of permits and unauthorized demolition was lifted on March 30. The next day, state Attorney General Peter Neronha filed a motion to intervene on development at the site.
The attorney general’s office is the guardian of charitable trusts in Rhode Island, including the one that dictates the land and building use for the former hospital campus. Neronha’s motion would block a possible foreclosure of the property, but it’s unclear what impact it has on Mota’s “voluntary foreclosure,” the shelter, or the redevelopment of the buildings on the campus.
The Globe requested all emails sent between the department of housing and Mota, as well as Memorial Real Estate Group, from Feb. 22 to March 17. A lawyer for the department of housing said there were none.
Emails obtained by the Globe through a different public records request -- in which the Globe asked for all emails between the department of housing and Amos House regarding Memorial Hospital from March 1 to April 3 -- show Mota’s correspondence with city officials and Amos House going back to March 9, including references to earlier phone calls about the restoration of the homeless shelter on the site, and meetings with the fire marshal and the state. The records obtained by the Globe show that Hayes forwarded the emails to Housing Secretary Pryor and assistant Housing Secretary Hannah Moore.
“I let the Fire Marshall [sic] know that Amos House is due to arrive April 1. We have done everything asked of us,” wrote Mota on March 29. “I understand his points — again, now I’m asking for help from everyone. I want everyone safe and I want to hand this over to Amos House.”
And, also on March 29: “Eileen is ready to move her people in.”
Hayes forwarded the emails to Pryor and Moore. “Newest wrinkle,” she wrote on March 29. And then, on March 30: “Keeping you in the loop,” she wrote.
MREG is also promoting the former hospital on its website as “Memorial Plus,” where it is described as “The Ultimate Destination for Playing, Working, Eating and Living” with no mention of the part of the building that will be used as a homeless shelter.
“Discover a brand new building featuring luxury apartments, modern office spaces, state-of-the-art fitness center, refreshing pool, and a vibrant restaurant,” the website reads.
In their Tuesday press release, MREG declared that it is “ready to work with both City and State officials to determine the best use of the rest of the building that meets the needs of the citizens of Pawtucket.”
But the housing department made their position clear to the Globe on Thursday.
“Is Housing working with Charles Everhardt? No. Is Housing working Lockwood Development Partners? No. Is Housing working with Mike Mota? No,” Sheaff told the Globe. Housing “is not working with them... especially to move Amos House back in.”
This article has been updated to include a comment from the office of the Mayor of Pawtucket.
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @AmandaMilkovits. Alexa Gagosz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.