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Former Maple Breeze Park included in 100-acre parcel in foreclosure auction

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published May 16. 2013 4:00AM

More than 100 acres of land in Stonington and North Stonington that includes the former Maple Breeze Park will be on the auction block June 8 in a bank foreclosure sale forced after a previous developer was convicted in a bribery scheme.

Bidding on the 9-acre Maple Breeze Park property at 30 Liberty St., valued at $1.85 million, will require potential buyers to bring a deposit of $185,000. The parcel, owned in part by convicted scammer Richard Girouard of Norwalk and his company North Stonington Group LLC, resonates with locals who remember three decades of summer fun at the park's waterslides, bumper boat rides, go-kart track and miniature-golf course.

"We've seen significant interest in the property," said Norwich attorney Michael E. Driscoll of Brown Jacobson, who is serving as committee of sale for the auction.

The auction of the former Maple Breeze property will occur at noon, while another 97-acre property owned by Girouard in North Stonington will be sold off at 1 p.m. The North Stonington site, near the rotary at Routes 2 and 184, has been valued at $2.7 million, with a required deposit of $267,500 to bid, according to court documents.

Both of the properties were acquired by Girouard in June 2008 with a $3 million promissory note from Hartford-based Peoples United Bank.

"They're separated by maybe a mile," Driscoll said.

Girouard owes about $3.1 million on the loan and would have to forfeit that amount to the bank, plus any extra costs associated with the sale or taxes. But he and his associates would stand to receive some of the proceeds of the sale if bids are close to the appraised value of the properties.

The highest bidders June 8 will walk away with the properties, subject to approval by the courts. If the bids are not approved or there are no bidders, the bank will likely move for a strict foreclosure, Driscoll said, which would mean People's United would take over ownership of the properties.

Girouard, who at one time owned the Ocean House in Watch Hill, had a 61-unit townhouse proposal for the Maple Breeze site rejected before winning approval for a supermarket. But before the project got underway, Girouard was arrested and then convicted in 2010 of masterminding an effort to rig an auction of bank-owned property by trying to bribe a Bank of America official. According to court documents, Girouard spent time in a federal prison camp in Florida for the crime.

Keith and Lois Main ran Maple Breeze Park for years before selling it in 2002 to James Justice of Lisbon, who had planned a 30,000-square-foot health club on the site. But Justice hooked up with Ledyard financier Blake Prater, whose Wellspring Capital Group offices were raided by federal agents hours after the health club held its groundbreaking ceremony.

Prater was convicted in 2007 of running an Internet Ponzi scheme, receiving a 10-year prison sentence and $3.4 million fine.

l.howard@theday.com

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