Metro

Fla. man gets 15-year sentence in Plymouth Rock Studios scam

$3.5m in fees may be lost for a time

PLYMOUTH — The businessman from Orlando, Fla., who bilked Plymouth Rock Studios out of $3.5 million in 2009 was ordered by a federal court in Florida last week to serve 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Plymouth Rock was not the only firm to have its pockets picked by Michael Frank Burgess. Burgess, 69, will be expected to pay over $94 million in restitution to victims, according to documents filed by the US attorney’s office in the Middle District Court of Florida.

Burgess was manager of Prosperity International LLC, an Orlando company that professed to be in the business of development and funding of large real estate projects. The company falsely said it had years of experience in both foreign and domestic markets.

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Victims wired millions of dollars in fees to bank accounts controlled by Burgess and coconspirators, to obtain funding for their projects.

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According to court documents, Plymouth Rock Studios principal Bob Almond wired the $3.5 million to Prosperity International in September 2009. Days later, Plymouth Rock made a public announcement that it had secured $550 million in investment money and was ready to purchase the target site, the Waverly Oaks golf course, and begin construction on a major film-making facility.

Two months later, studio representatives announced the deal with Prosperity was off. Investors will probably not see the $3.5 million in fees any time soon. While Prosperity said it kept deposit money from clients in escrow accounts, that did not happen, according to court documents.

Plymouth Rock’s chief operating officer, Joe DiLorenzo, said all Burgess’s victims were notified of the sentencing.

He would not discuss the studio team’s financial loss, saying it remained part of an ongoing investigation by federal authorities. DiLorenzo identified Almond as a shareholder in Plymouth Rock Studios.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.