CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A developer being sued by state and Kanawha County government over years of rent payments that were collected but not passed along has filed for bankruptcy.
John Wellford of Charleston filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which lets individuals develop a plan to repay debts. A notice of the filing states, “In most instances, the filing of the bankruptcy automatically stays certain collection and other actions against the debtor and the debtor’s property.”
Wellford’s company, Corotoman, filed Chapter 11, which allows corporations to reorganize.
Both bankruptcies were filed March 29.
Wellford is the target of lawsuits by the West Virginia Water Development Authority and by the Kanawha County Commission.
Those government entities oversaw a lease agreement that started in 1999 with Wellford at its center. They extended the money as part of an economic development project.
The water development authority loaned $3 million to the Regional Development Authority of Charleston-Kanawha County to finance the purchase of the Ticketmaster building in the Northgate Business Park.
Corotoman Inc. of Charleston, and its president, Wellford, had been developers of the property.
The deal allowed the businessman to remain as the landlord of the building, including being responsible for collecting the rent and making all loan payments.
The loan was designed so that once the loan was paid off on schedule, August 1, 2019, Wellford would take over ownership outright.
Each lawsuit contends Wellford collected but failed to pass on $1,560,000 over a period of years.
In total, the lawsuits allege, 79 payments were missed.
The Kanawha County lawsuit asked for punitive damages, contending that what Wellford is accused of doing amounts to embezzlement.
“To date, Defendants have not been charged with any crime; Defendants’ conduct is ‘unprosecuted criminal conduct,’” wrote lawyers for Kanawha County.
The response filed in Kanawha Circuit Court in February for Wellford specifically denied that.
“The Defendants deny that their conduct constitutes embezzlement and demand strict proof thereof.”