GBBR head files for Chapter 7

Much of Realtor's debt from housing investments

March 13, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,

A real estate agent who heads the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing debt of $3.9 million, much of it stemming from real estate ventures caught up in the housing market slowdown.

Vito Simone, president of the GBBR professional organization and a real estate investor, filed the petition with his wife, Gail, as joint debtor, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore. The couple listed more than $487,000 in assets. Under a Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy, a trustee typically is appointed to liquidate certain assets and pay creditors.

Much of the debt to 66 creditors stems from Simone's companies: Baltimore Rehab Services LLC; Simone Real Estate LLC; Druid Lake Partners; and VGS Properties LLC; and from residential rehab projects in areas such as Baltimore's Reservoir Hill. At the height of the housing boom, the neighborhood drew scores of investors who resold fixed-up homes for a profit.

Creditors also include Simone's employer, Baltimore real estate firm Yerman, Witman, Gaines & Conklin Realty, and the Internal Revenue Service, which is owed $52,828 in back income and business taxes. Debt also includes a $179,061 first mortgage and a $245,904 home equity line on the couple's Baltimore County home, and $446,495 in liens on the home, bankruptcy documents show.

Simone, who did not respond to requests for comments yesterday, has been active with the GBBR for years and now serves in the volunteer, elected role of president.

"Vito's given a tremendous amount to the organization and the industry," said Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, executive vice president of GBBR. He said word of Simone's financial troubles, first reported by the City Paper, was just reaching GBBR's leaders.

"Obviously it's a serious concern," he said. "And I think people are genuinely concerned and empathize with Vito and his family, too."

Creditor David Zichos of Parkville, who has been a business partner of Simone's and a principal of Baltimore Rehab, said in an August 2005 Sun article that the company was doing about 85 percent of its rehab work in Reservoir Hill, attracting many homebuyers from Washington. Zichos did not return a telephone call yesterday.

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