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Failed Indian Ridge project on Table Rock sends 2 more men to prison

 Indian Ridge Resorts near Branson West (news archives)
Indian Ridge Resorts near Branson West (news archives) (KY3)
Published: Jan. 25, 2017 at 5:32 PM CST
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Three people from Colorado learned their sentences on Tuesday for a real estate fraud scheme in which developers borrowed money for proposed townhomes next to Table Rock Lake east of Branson West. They would have been part of a huge project called Indian Ridge Resort Community.

Two of the three people sentenced on Tuesday admitted in U.S. District Court that they lied to get loans for the project in 2006. The third one admitted she knew about the lies but didn’t report it.

David Drake, 67, of Lone Tree, Colo. and Donald Snider, 57, of Littleton, Colo., each received five-year prison sentences. Snider's wife, Heather Gibbs, 54, received three years of probation.

Drake and Snider pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Drake and Snider admitted they were business partners in Western Site Services, which set out to develop Indian Ridge Resorts. They made false representations in order to obtain financing from three banks, including Columbian Bank and Trust.

Another defendant was Vickie Hall, wife of David Drake, who received three years of probation in October 2015. In addition, James Clarkson, 45, of Casa Grande, Ariz., last August received a 24-month prison sentence, followed by three years of supervised release, and an order to make restitution to the banks of nearly $14,221,000.

Clarkson admitted, while he was working as a mortgage broker, that he agreed with Drake and Snider to advertise and obtain investors for Indian Ridge. Drake and Snider planned to construct townhomes and sell them as vacation homes.

Clarkson prepared loan applications for buyers in which he made false statements. He inflated borrowers’ income to make sure they qualified for loans.

Investigators said Drake and Snider obtained 51 construction loans for their project. The loan agreements required construction costs be paid before seeking reimbursement. Instead, Drake and Snider failed to do enough construction to justify the funding that they received. Only 13 homes were started and none of them were completed.

Investigators said Drake and Snider used the money from the loans for personal expenses and expenses related to other construction projects.

As part of their sentences, a judge ordered Vickie Hall and Heather Gibbs to make restitution in the amount of $120,000 each. As of Wednesday, the judge hadn't determined how much restitution to order for Drake and Snider, according to FBI special agent John Nunez, a public information officer, for IRS Criminal Investigation.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Secret Service worked with federal prosecutors on the case.

Jim Shirato of Springfield was the lead developer when the 900-acre project was announced in 2006. He said developers would eventually spend $1.6 billion for shopping areas, a 390-room resort hotel with the country's second-largest indoor water park, a golf course, a marina and an Indian history museum in addition to the townhomes or condominiums.

Gov. Matt Blunt was at the ceremony when it was announced. He yelled into a bullhorn for the excavators to start their engines. Indian Ridge later received a $1 million grant from the state Department of Natural Resources for a wastewater plant, and major highway improvements were planned.

Shirato became ensnared by the legal difficulties of Drake and Snider and the project's lenders after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money. Federal regulators shut down Columbian Bank and Trust in 2008, halting the development, and Shirato couldn't get the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to let the project proceed.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office later sued the developers for violating state and federal clean water laws because soil from the excavated areas washed into Table Rock Lake. Shirato ended up paying a $125,000 fine.

The project ended up being a ghost town with several partially completed buildings visible between Missouri 76 and Table Rock Lake. New developers bought the property in 2015 and are working with the Stone County Commission on projects that could be announced soon when legal hurdles are cleared.

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Some information in this report came from news releases from the U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas.

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