The New York investor behind Pinney Point ran a hedge fund, a blueberry farm, and a series of Hooters.

The state could force hundreds of evacuation and devastate marine life in Tampa Bay, the owner of a problematic piny point phosphate plant site leaking contaminated wastewater. I vowed to take “responsibility” for the unresolved environmental crisis.

That would be a big legal challenge.

“I want to string them together, but the reality of the situation is that they have shell companies one after another. These people are rich and smart, and what they are doing I know, “said Manatee County Commissioner Kevin van Ostembridge. “It’s like drawing blood from turnips. You never get nickel out of them.”

Since getting angry after a major spill in 2011, HRK has gone bankrupt and claims it can’t afford the millions of dollars needed for the last cleanup. Since the wall of the regulating pond in the closed factory ruptured last week, the company hasn’t said anything about how or not to handle the latest purification costs. No wealthy New York investor has been identified by Florida’s official records as the primary owner of HRK. I’m William “Mickey” F. Harley III, a Wall Street executive and former hedge fund manager with a history of buying bankrupt and struggling companies.

His list of past and present investments is long and eclectic to say the least. At one point, he owned a series of Hooters franchises on Long Island and became a board member of the lingerie company Fredericks of Hollywood. Uranium mine in Namibia, And very recently, we have begun to enter the marijuana industry.

Forbes called him in 2004VultureAn investor who specializes in making profits by storming dying or problematic companies. 2006, tThe Wall Street Journal emphasized time He defeated the legendary financier Warren Buffett I participated in a transaction involving Seitel Inc, an earthquake data company that went bankrupt at the time.

What are Piny Points?Here’s what you need to know about toxic industrial land:

Currently, he has just announced the Greenrose Acquisition Corp. I am the CEO of. It plans to buy four cannabis companies, He describes himself as a “farmer of the heart” in his career.his Site mini resume He is also the president of Organic Blueberry Farm, running “the world’s largest vertically integrated pecan nut company” and managing a small number of hedge funds.

It does not mention his investment in Piny Point, an abandoned phosphate plant with a long history of environmental issues.

Harley’s long business record is also dotted with several proceedings, including a lawsuit accusing him of improperly using the hedge company’s money to bail out the phosphorus mine a few years ago.

Harley did not immediately respond to requests for comment left on his current office, the mobile phone number affiliated with him, or the lawyer who previously represented him. Jeff Barras, a site manager at HRK, who was a spokesman for the company during an effort to control a leaking wastewater pool, did not respond to a request for comment.

The threat to the public seems to have eased Wednesday morning after Manatee County lifted the evacuation order on Tuesday afternoon, with workers using pumps and vacuum trucks to lower the water level at Pinney Point. During that time, 137 residents were able to return to their homes. However, Tampa Bay is still at risk, and the question is who will pay tens of millions of invoices as a permanent solution to the vast wastewater ponds of abandoned factories.

Bonnie Malloy, an Earthjustice lawyer who previously worked with DEP, said the agency would find “a living, breathing, and economically viable person” to pay for cleaning in such cases. Said it might be difficult. It is also difficult to file a lawsuit strong enough to survive the layers of shell companies and limited liability companies that protect investors and force them to pay.

“It’s definitely a problem that’s prevalent in Florida and elsewhere,” she said. “The corporate structure allows for the protection of principal and they take advantage of it.”

This photo was taken on Friday evening, April 2, 2021, before the announcement of an extended evacuation order on Saturday due to the danger of an

This photo was taken on Friday evening, April 2, 2021, before an expanded evacuation order was announced on Saturday due to the danger of a “imminent collapse” of the gypsum stack at the former Piny Point Phosphate Mine. Was taken in.

HRK Acquires Piny Point

In 2006, Harley purchased a former phosphate mine that went bankrupt for $ 4.3 million from DEP, which had held the site since his former owner, Mulberry, went bankrupt in 2001 by his company, HRK Holdings. It appeared when I did.

While DEP planned to use taxpayer money to shut down the site, HRK approached the agency with a plan to buy real estate solely for the purpose of storing dredging from Port Manatees. did.

Art Roth, a longtime fertilizer industry figure, was the catalyst behind new buyers. He found Harley, Gary Cania and Scott Rosenzweig, and the three investors formed HRK, a combination of their initials. Roth has been appointed as a local representative, and he and CEO Jordan Levy have been local faces for many years.

However, an email obtained by Bradenton Herald indicates that Harley was directly involved in talks with the Port of Piny Point in 2011, shortly before the infamous spill into Tampa Bay. He has been identified as HRK Chairman in many new reports over the next few years. Also, in the state corporate records updated in February this year, he is listed as a “administrative member” of the company, but neither Kania nor Rosenzweig are listed.

William & # x00201c; Mickey & # x00201d; Harley is listed in Florida's business records as the manager of HRK Holdings, the company that owns the Piny Point Phosphate Mine.

William “Mickey” Harley is listed in Florida’s business records as the manager of HRK Holdings, the company that owns the Piny Point Phosphate Mine.

Documents when HRK Holdings was first established in 2006 Submit to Sunbiz The official email said it should be sent to Mellon HBV Alternative Strategies, a New York-based limited liability company with the same three managers as HRK, including Harley.

Hedge fund management unit Mellon HBV Alternative Strategies was a subsidiary of the large hedge fund Mellon Holdings, which managed assets of approximately $ 1 billion at the time. In December 2006, the Bank of New York acquired Melon Holdings and sold the Melon HBV Alternative Strategy to Harley for a private amount. Pensions and investments reported..

Harley changed the name of the company to Fursa Alternative Strategies. Two years later, in the midst of the financial crisis, the asset manager announced that it would close its business to all investors.

But Proceedings filed in 2011 According to the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, which invested $ 2 million in hedge funds, Harley said it didn’t return the money. The proceedings accused him of continuing to run the business from one basement of the Hooters franchise, a claim he denied, and Frederick’s Hollywood 8 million co-owned lingerie company. Pour in Foundation investment to buy shares. Cleaning at Piny Point after spilling 170 million gallons of toxic water into Bishop Harbor in Tampa Bay.

Human development charities continue to pay Harley hundreds of thousands of dollars to his brother and at least $ 5.6 million to friends and other investors in business for no apparent purpose, instead of paying back to investors. Insisted. acquaintance, Trib Live report.

Harley’s own lawyer, Patrick Kabanau, admitted in court that Harley was unable to explain much of the payments or where the money went.

“It’s not the best bookkeeping,” he said. Trib Live..

The proceeding ended with a sealed settlement, Newsday reported..

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's inundation map predicts that inundation levels will be four hours after the largest pond at Pinney Point has completely collapsed, according to engineers' conservative estimates.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s inundation map predicts that inundation levels will be four hours after the largest pond at Pinney Point has completely collapsed, according to engineers’ conservative estimates.

2011 outflow

When purchasing real estate in 2006, HRK Holdings made several agreements with DEP on plans to protect the site from further environmental disasters.

As usual in all other previous phosphate mines, DEP asked HRK to cover the exposed lining with a layer of soil to protect it from harmful sun rays. This costs $ 4 million.

But for the first time, the agency Abandon requirements This is because HRK plans to do business with its neighboring port, Manatees. Instead, Herald reported that DEP demanded that the port and HRK carry $ 2 million in insurance policies, but they never bought them.

The port wanted to dredge a new berth, which is part of a $ 200 million expansion to enable larger cargo ships. And they wanted a place to put the dredged soil. HRK provided a gypsum stack pond at Piny Point. This is a cheap deal for the county and a profitable deal for the former Phosphate mine, which was busy leasing land in a new industrial park called Eastport Terminal.

Will deep wells put an end to piny points?State officials say funds are available

DEP officials told Bradenton Herald that they expected the dredged material to act as a cover for the lining, but the dredging did not begin until 2011 and the lining remained exposed for years. did.

According to a survey by Bradenton Herald HRK discovered and fixed a 6-inch rift in the liner in 2011, just before dredging began. At the same time, a study commissioned by HRK and obtained by Herald found that the liner seams were not properly constructed and that the structure was already exposed to sunlight, causing stress cracks.

Bradenton Herald reports that 1.1 million cubic yards of material from the Manatee Port Bath 12 project was immediately dumped into the same pond, despite the knowledge that HRK had never shared it with Manatee County authorities. it was done.

A month after the new material was dumped into the pond, the liner broke again, sending 170 million gallons of toxic water to Bishop Harbor in Tampa Bay, resulting in a series of proceedings.

HRK has sued 10 contractors who designed, installed and analyzed gypsum stack liners.Michigan Contractor Sues Manatee County Port Authority For $ 4.8 million Due to the subsequent delay in the construction of Bath 12. The parties finally agreed to a $ 3.3 million settlement. And the port sued HRK for $ 12 million.

The Florida Senate wants to find $ 200 million to get rid of piny points in one fell swoop

Too much for HRK Holdings. The company filed for bankruptcy. According to federal court documents, the company cannot afford to pay for the necessary cleanup after the catastrophic spill to Bishop Harbor last year.

Faced with $ 26 million in debt to more than 60 creditors, HRK has begun selling chunks of 675 acres of piny point sites. The first 30 acres were sent to Air Products and Chemicals in 2012 for $ 5.8 million. Utah-based Thatcher Chemical purchased eight acres for $ 1.57 million in 2013. Miami chemical maker Allied Universal Corp purchased 572 acres in 2014 for about $ 7.9 million.

The bankruptcy case ended in 2017, and a federal document filed that year stated that HRK Holdings had settled all claims from creditors except the $ 12 million claim from the Manatee County Port Authority. ..

Bradenton Herald Reporter Jessica Deleon contributed to the story.