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Restored Republic via a GCR: Update as of July 16, 2018

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

FBI Probe Focuses on Vet's Loan for 'Warriors' Home

More questions about Homes for Warriors properties in Palm Bay

Published 5:22 p.m. ET Aug. 7, 2017 | Updated 10:17 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2017

More questions arise on the Homes for Warriors participants.

(Photo: Provided by Stephen Hamrick)

PALM BAY — New questions are being raised about a controversial housing program aimed at providing homes for disabled veterans.

One question is why one recipient of a property through the now-defunct Homes for Warriors program in Palm Bay suddenly had a $5,000 Housing and Urban Development loan forgiven after taking possession of the house in 2014.

The recipient, Army veteran Stephen Hamrick, who lost a leg in Iraq and is 100 percent disabled, was a business partner in 2001 of now-Palm Bay Deputy City Manager David Isnardi.

Hamrick moved into his mortgage-free property in October 2014. He conceded he had been derelict in repaying a federal Housing and Urban Development small-business development loan — part of a now-defunct small-business initiative administered by the city — and was surprised when Isnardi showed up at his house in his truck one afternoon in August 2015, handed him a manila envelope and drove away

A couple who received a new house under the Homes for Warriors program in 2016 is now trying to sell the home for $200,000. They will only have to pay the city $50,000. Wochit

"He said, 'I have something for you,' and then he left," Hamrick told FLORIDA TODAY.

Inside the envelope was a document, signed by Palm Bay City Manager Gregg Lynk, indicating his loan, plus interest, had been forgiven.

"I wasn't complaining," Hamrick said. "I just don't know what spawned it."

David Isnardi, left, Stephen Hamrick, center, and Bob Williams discuss work plans for the finishing touches to the house Hamrick received from the city and the Space Coast Paratroopers Association. (Photo: FLORIDA TODAY files)

Hamrick had taken out the loan with Isnardi years before, but had failed to repay his share of it.

Not long after moving into his house, Hamrick said Bob Williams, a Palm Bay building department official who helped with the Homes for Warriors program, visited him and urged him to repay the HUD loan. The optics, Williams told Hamrick, weren't great because he was getting a free home, yet he had an unpaid HUD liability on the city's books.

"I knew I needed to start repaying it," Hamrick said. "I had let it go all of those years because of some personal problems and health issues."

Hamrick said he sent a $200 check to the city sometime after meeting with Williams in care of Palm Bay's city attorney emeritus, Nick Tsamoutales, to start paying off the loan. The check wasn't cashed.

And then, in early August 2015, he received a phone call from Isnardi asking if he could stop by Hamrick's house. That's when Isnardi gave him the envelope before driving off without saying what was inside, Hamrick said.

The Homes for Warriors program is under scrutiny as the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating activities in Palm Bay City Hall.

The scope of the investigation is unknown, but, last week, the FBI sent a subpoena sent to Palm Bay's custodian of records, seeking records related to grant funds and loans from the city to Isnardi, Hamrick and Hamrick's wife, Penny, for a startup business called Hoppers Designated Drivers.

Isnardi left the business soon after joining up with the Hamricks and the couple sold Hoppers a few years later.

Isnardi became Palm Bay's deputy city manager in May 2015. Isnardi repaid his share of the loan in July 2005. Hamrick didn't and he said he had always remained leery of Isnardi when they would run into each other at various veterans' events.

Hamrick told FLORIDA TODAY earlier this year that Isnardi called him in 2013 — "out of the blue" — about the Homes for Warriors program in Palm Bay, and asked if he would be interested. Isnardi, according to Hamrick, told him: "I'm going to put you into a free house."

Isnardi denied promising Hamrick a house, saying that he only encouraged him to apply. Isnardi added that the city of Palm Bay was responsible for approving all applicants.

Isnardi could not be reached for comment for this story.

City Manager Lynk told FLORIDA TODAY the city forgave the loan, based on the advice of current Palm Bay City Attorney Andrew Lannon.

"The financial documents provided by Mr. Hamrick to the Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Department demonstrated that normal collection methods under Florida law, such as garnishment, would be unsuccessful," Lynk said in a statement. "Based on these records, it was apparent that Hamrick had made every effort to repay the loan and, as a wounded warrior who survives solely on VA disability benefits and Social Security, that he did not have the means to pay off the remainder of the loan. Per the advice of the city attorney, it was determined that his circumstances warranted forgiveness of the loan."

Last March, Isnardi asked Hamrick to re-sign some loan papers for the Homes for Warrior house and he reluctantly agreed. The re-signed documents were needed to protect the city's financial interests as it pertained to the properties.

"It irks me the way that was presented to me," Hamrick said. "I recognized in hindsight that maybe I shouldn't have signed the new documents."

Hamrick said he has met with the FBI and FDLE to discuss the loan and his association with Isnardi.

Source: Florida Today



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