Plot thickens for controversial Big Ridge development near Cashiers

Alleging a $12.5-million detour of company money into her personal accounts, federal authorities have taken over the multistate case of Yolanda Serrano, former comptroller of Southeast Petro Distributors in Melbourne, Fla., according to a Sept. 15 report in the St. Petersburg Times. Serrano purportedly used some of the funds to buy eight lots in the Big Ridge development in Jackson County (see “Big Ridge Development in Jackson County Spotlighted by Investigative Journalist,” Mountain Xpress).

The Big Ridge development is being developed by Domenic Rabuffo, a former New York electrical contractor who pleaded guilty in a $49-million mortgage fraud in the 1980s. Serrano, according to SunTrust — a major mortgage holder at the Big Ridge site — is one of several owners there with joint bank accounts with Rabuffo. The Times article states that work at Rabuffo’s Blue Ridge Mountain Estates project at Big Ridge seems to be at a virtual standstill, and liens totaling nearly $325,000 have been filed there. SunTrust has filed foreclosure on 14 property owners, including Serrano. Meanwhile, property owners in the area are blaming doubled land values on the sales prices Rabuffo has charged — as high as $650,000 an acre.

Nelda Holder, associate editor

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