By: Max Marbut
Robert H. Hendricks, a former real estate broker in Ponte Vedra, pleaded guilty in federal court Oct. 2 to four counts of wire fraud.
Hendricks, 64, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each of the counts and has agreed to pay at least $2,682,924.34 in restitution to his victims.
A sentencing date has not yet been set, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.
Hendricks, principal of Crown Commercial Real Estate Inc., was licensed by the state in 1984. His real estate license was revoked in June 2019.
He was indicted in September on 12 counts of wire fraud.
The government’s investigation determined that Hendricks told two of his victims, a husband and wife, who were his friends, that he had been successful with commercial property development and needed money for another commercial property deal in central Florida.
In October 2014, the husband paid Hendricks $300,000 as an investment into two commercial property ventures. Hendricks never used the money for an investment, but instead used it for his personal benefit.
On March 21, 2016, Hendricks received a wire transfer of $200,000 from another victim, who also was a friend. He told the victim that Wawa, a chain of convenience stores and gas stations, was establishing locations in Jacksonville and offered the victim a deal for four to five stores.
The victim believed that three of the five locations were completed based, in part, on a contract from Hendricks that referenced a Wawa store at St. Johns Town Center, and other representations made by Hendricks.
However, the store already was built at the time of the investment. Hendricks was not involved in that Wawa project or any other Wawa deal involving St. Johns Town Center.
On April 18, 2016, Hendricks received a wire transfer of $490,000 from a lender for a property he had obtained from a longtime friend through misrepresentations.
The victim agreed to temporarily transfer the property to Hendricks to enable him to pay for cleanup and obtain special insurance, but Hendricks did not need to pay for any cleanup and no special insurance was required.
Instead, when the property was placed in Hendricks’s name, he obtained a $500,000 mortgage for his benefit, which he failed to repay and the property was awarded to the lender at auction.
On Feb. 13, 2017, Hendricks received a wire transfer of $388,962.17 from a victim for a commercial property venture.
Hendricks falsely claimed he had an interest in a limited liability corporation that owned a The Home Depot store and the victim could invest in it. However, the LLC was incorporated by Hendricks to further the fraudulent investment scheme, and he did not own an interest in the LLC that owned the store.
This case was investigated by the FBI. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Washington.