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Lewiston hotel figure vows to avoid foreclosure; bankruptcy possible

The Barton Hill Hotel in Lewiston will avoid foreclosure despite a delinquent mortgage and unpaid property taxes, its co-owner vowed Thursday.

"We will use every possible remedy to maintain this property," said Diane Finkbeiner, who owns the 72-room hotel with her husband, Edward.

"If we have to, we'll stop the foreclosure with a Chapter 11 [bankruptcy filing]," said Corey J. Hogan, the Finkbeiners' attorney.

In an appearance before State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., Hogan again said there is a possible new investor that would buy off the mortgage holder and become a part-owner of the hotel.

The foreclosure suit was brought by CIT Lending Services Corp. in December 2009. Since then, Hogan said, CIT has sold the mortgage to another investor, Iddleson Group.

The lawsuit said CIT was owed more than $9 million, counting penalties and interest. The original mortgage was for $8.35 million.

In court, Hogan handed a $30,000 check to Iddleson's attorney, Justin Gray of Albany.

Kloch told Gray, "The 13th of every month, they must pay $30,000 or I'll sign an order foreclosing on the property and you can sell it."

Hogan said the new investor is Crystal Resorts, which Hogan identified only as a U.S. company that is trying to arrange its own financing from a British lender working through HSBC Bank in London.

Hogan said Crystal Resorts was one of four or five companies that appraised the hotel. The others said it was worth $4 million, but Crystal said it was worth $6 million and proposed to pay that amount.

"CIT said, 'We'll take it,' " Hogan told Kloch.

Gray derided the claim of a new investor riding to the Finkbeiners' rescue. "No concrete proposal has ever been made. It's just speculation," he said.

Seeking further details, The Buffalo News found two companies.

A website for Crystal Resorts contained a corporate phone number and address in Palm Springs, Calif.

The phone was not in service; an e-mail bounced back with a server message saying the address didn't exist; and the physical address turned out to be the Palm Springs United Way office.

The California secretary of state's website listed Crystal Resorts' corporation status as "forfeited" but indicated the company was based in Nevada. The Nevada secretary of state's office listed Crystal's corporation status as "revoked."

Neither Hogan nor Finkbeiner returned calls when The News sought further information on Crystal Resorts. But The News did locate a California attorney, Seth W. Weiner, who said he is suing Crystal Resorts for allegedly defrauding an elderly woman of $300,000 in a time-share scheme.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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