Target 8: Hundreds of Hillsborough retirees and families waiting on University Village deal

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Today in U.S. Bankruptcy court, University Village residents heard that a deal and a possible sale are close, but more work needs to be done.

More than 300 retirees and their families are still wondering what will come of their community.

Mediator Jeffrey Warren told Judge Michael Williamson substantial progress was made during two days of mediation this week between residents, debtors and creditors.

The upscale retirement community has been in a state of flux since John Bartle and Eli Freiden took over ownership. The state Office of Insurance Regulation claimed they took ownership illegally.

Residents pay big money to live in University Village. In return, they are promised lifetime care.

Since Mr. Bartle and associate Mr. Freiden took over three years ago, millions of dollars in refunds due residents and bills to vendors went unpaid.

The company that owns University Village Westport Holdings of Tampa has since filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mr. Bartle was criticized for bringing in companies operated by or employing his relatives.

“I don’t know where you got that information, Steve but I think it’s just wrong,” stated Mr. Bartle. “Because you haven’t shown any evidence.”

His wife Rebecca Bartle, along with her son and her son’s wife, all worked within University Village.

“My wife didn’t get a cent from University Village, not one penny,” explained Mr. Bartle. “No sir, nobody’s been able to produce one check that my wife got a dime.”

When asked, he said she worked for free.

Turns out Mr. Bartle’s wife and her son worked for a company, BVM Management, that Mr. Bartle is associated with, and it wasn’t for free.

“I am associated with it but again, my wife worked for that company and what services she rendered for that company she got paid for,” Mr. Bartle said.

Carol Resnick bought into University Village at a large price.

“And in the two years that I have been here since Eli Freiden and John Bartle have taken over, it’s gone down hill totally,” said Ms. Resnick.

News Channel 8 told Mr. Bartle that some people at University Village blame him for the problems the community now faces.

“Well that’s just unfortunate because after a four-day evidentiary hearing in Tallahassee the judge found otherwise,” he retorted.

As he exited his second day of mediation on Tuesday, Mr. Bartle said all of the retirees, who are owed a total of millions, will be reimbursed 100 cents on the dollar.

Kay Bates moved out of University Village.

“I said I would not live there under John Bartle and Eli Freiden,” said Ms. Bates. “I don’t trust any of them.”

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