Where’s the money? Government investigating Fort Myers entrepreneur

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FILE Photo of The Atrium in south Fort Myers in 2017. Credit: WINK News.

According to records obtained by WINK News, a young Southwest Florida entrepreneur who made headlines in 2017 with his plans to develop a rundown office complex is now the subject of a government investigation.

Florida’s Office of Financial regulation received at least two complaints against Matt Hurley, a 24-year-old who graduated from Cypress Lake High School who describes himself as an investor, entrepreneur, and political hack on his social media profiles.

One complainant claimed to invest $400,000 with Hurley’s company Youngbloods, Inc under the premise that it would pay an eight percent dividend. But then, the complainant was never able to redeem shares or reach Hurley by phone or certified mail. OFR said another complaint was considered exempt from public records because it was part of an ongoing investigation.

In March, OFR said in a letter to a complainant it would not be opening its own investigation into Hurley or his company because another government agency already had a case file.

Matthew Hurley was found in contempt of court in June 2020.

“Typically, what you see the government do is they’re going to follow the money. If money was given to him for one purpose and then diverted elsewhere, those are going to be more indicative of criminal fraud,” said Davis Haas, a former US Attorney for Florida’s middle district who prosecuted economic crimes. He is not connected to the investigation against Hurley.

Haas reviewed the allegations against Hurley documented in several lawsuits and said typically, the SEC or the FBI would lead an investigation into that type of case. As of publication, no criminal charges have been filed against Hurley.

The WINK News investigative team found court records that show Matt Hurley owes at least $2 million in civil judgments and other pending lawsuits seeking nearly $1 million in damages.

The lawsuits stretch from Florida to North Carolina and involve everything from real estate development and racecar teams to cryptocurrency and political consulting.

“The only way we are going to get the money, he is going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul, it seems like,” said Shane Lee, a former NASCAR driver from the Charlotte area, whose family invested more than a million dollars with Hurley.

He planned to redevelop the Atrium Executive Center complex at the southwest corner of College Parkway and Winkler Road in south Fort Myers, calling it the “H2 Innovation Center,” but then he never paid more than $200,000 in rent.

The Atrium owners were awarded a judgment against Hurley in 2019, totaling nearly $450,000 for unpaid rent, late fees, and attorney’s costs.

“I never believed his story,” said Gloria Jordan, a restaurateur who owned the Mermaid Cafe inside the Atrium. Hurley canceled Jordan’s lease and other long-time tenants of the building when he took over management of the complex. She sued Hurley for breaking her lease and said, to date, she’s only collected a portion of what he owes her.

By the time the Atrium deal went bust, Hurley was already off to the races in North Carolina, starting up “H2 Motorsports.”

Lee said Hurley sold himself as a tech-guru who had sold his company. He entered into promissory agreements with Lee’s family where they would loan him $1.5 million to start up a racing team, and then they’d be paid back once sponsorships came through. Lee was the driver for the team.

“We made five or six races into it before stuff started blowing up. The bills weren’t getting paid. Some of the race cars hadn’t been paid for,” said Lee.

Hurley then terminated Lee from the team, citing poor performance. And according to Lee, Hurley hadn’t paid him the full terms of his contract as a driver. Lee, his father, and an LLC associated with the family was awarded a judgment totaling more than $1.74 million in late 2019.

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