by: Jenna Bourne Updated:JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —
A couple suing Jacksonville entertainment restaurant Latitude 360 CEO Brent Brown accuses him of scamming them out of their retirement.
Latitude 360 closed its doors Thursday to its Phillips Highway and Indianapolis locations, leaving only the Pittsburgh location open for business.
A notice posted on the doors said the company owes nearly $133,000 in tangible taxes. The Tax Collector’s Office said the company is on a payment plan to pay it off, but the items inside the building can’t be moved until the sum is paid.
Brown tells Action News Jax he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to pay back all his debts.
Investors tell us they want to know where all their money went.
In one of eight lawsuits pending against Brown, Tommy and Linda Tharp allege Brown coaxed them into emptying their 401(k) to develop the flagship Jacksonville Latitude 360 location, which is now shut down.
“They trusted him," said the Tharps’ attorney William Lewis.
The Tharps’ lawsuit said they loaned Brown more than $500,000 over the years.
“Unfortunately, they're an elderly couple that's not financially sophisticated. And they didn't have the knowledge base going into the investment and, simply, they trusted Brent Brown," said Lewis.
When Action News Jax tried talking to Brown about the lawsuits against him, this is how he responded:
“Come on, you know I can't just sit here and talk about outstanding litigation, OK?” said Brown.
Brown’s attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the Tharps’ lawsuit against him.
Nowhere in the motion does Brown’s attorney claim the Tharps got a penny of return on their investment.
Action News Jax Law & Safety Expert Dale Carson said the eight lawsuits, nearly $8 million loss in six months, nearly $133,000 in unpaid taxes, millions in unpaid rent, and bounced employee checks point to a deeper issue.
“There's something wrong here," said Carson. “You've got to think these fellows who are in business either didn't know how to operate a business because the economy, as we all know, has been bad, or they were doing something that was improper."
Carson said anything that makes it hard for investors to know the value of the company is a red flag.
Latitude 360 isn't just Latitude 360; another lawsuit against Brown and his companies alleges a web of nearly a dozen companies: Latitude Global, Inc., Latitude 360, Inc., The Brownstone Group LLC, Brownstone Developers LLC, and more.
“We don't know in this particular case, but it can be used to deceive potential investors," said Carson.
An internal salary report we got from a source inside Latitude 360 shows CEO Brent Brown makes about $356,000 a year; that’s about $30,000 a month.