Tag Archive for: Romerica Investments

More Questions than Answers About Romerica Group, Romerica Investments, and Their Supposed $2.5 Billion Project

A company called Romerica Investments, LLC filed applications with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop hundreds of acres of land currently in the floodplain, the floodway and wetlands near the San Jacinto. The land is between Kingwood Lakes and the San Jacinto River, east of Woodland Hills Drive. If the Army Corps approves the permit, buildings could range up to 50 stories on land deed-restricted to single-family use. Meanwhile, numerous other questions have arisen about the maze of companies, including the Romerica Group, behind what Houston City Council Member Dave Martin has described as a $2.5 billion proposal.

Romerica Investments

Romerica Investments, LLC is one of many ostensibly related companies, according to the developer’s Romerica Group website.

Problem is: Dun & Bradstreet thinks Romerica Investments is out of business. And the Romerica Group is not registered with the Secretary of State to do business in Texas.

35 Companies Controlled by Two Men

Searches have revealed 35 companies so far that are registered with the Texas Secretary of State that belong to Gabriel M. Haddad and Fabio M. Covarrubias. Both men use multiple variations on their names, making it difficult to nail down a precise number of companies and partnerships that they control. They also register additional companies and partnerships in other states and countries, making ownership and accountability even more difficult to track.

Romerica Investments does not have a functioning public-facing informational website that I can find; RomericaInvestments.com, which was registered in 2016, still leads to a “Future Home of…” page. However, clicking on the Romerica Investment link from the Romerica Group home page takes you to a password-protected login page at separate website address for the Kingwood Marina Project. This website was registered by Romerica Investments.com.

A new and separate promotional website developed by Manlove Advertising and PR for the developers now implies that the Romerica Group will be responsible for the development. Yet there is no Romerica Group registered to do business in the State of Texas. This search of the Secretary of State’s SOS Direct database returned nothing close to the Romerica Group.

Romerica Group’s website says they have 12 projects currently “running” in the U.S. and Mexico. However, a review of the company’s many websites found only two related to real-estate development – one in each country. The US project in Kingwood has not been constructed and the website for the development in Mexico shows only conceptual drawings. The Romerica Group website shows nine related entities, discussed below.

Motor Sports Resort

In November 2014, Covarrubias and Haddad bought a race track in Angleton at One Performance Drive in the middle of farmland (see below). Built in 2005, it was originally called MSR Houston. MSR stood for Motor Speedway Ranch. Photos on the site suggest that the tallest building on the property is two to three stories. It sold memberships and track time to owners of high-performance vehicles who wanted to drive fast legally in a controlled environment.

Racetrack in Angleton caters to performance driving enthusiasts. As of 3/21/18, Google Earth showed only a track with some garage space and a few other small buildings.

AFTER the track fell into financial difficulties, Covarrubias and Haddad bought the property under the names Piffer and Giorgi in November, 2014,. They bought it through one of their 35 companies called Romerica Entertainment, LLC.

On Christmas Eve of 2014, Piffer (using the name Fabio M. Covarrubias) promised the members of the race track that Romerica Entertainment would make many improvements to the facility, including building a four-star hotel. More than four years later, there’s still no sign of the hotel in satellite photos, the Brazoria County appraisal district website or legal filings related to the property.

The Motor Sports Resort site mentions a real-estate company, MSR Houston Real Estate, that was supposedly introducing a master plan for the track by the summer of 2018. The MSR Houston web site does say, “Coming Soon,” but the Texas Secretary of State shows no record of such a company and a google search for it returned no results except the one below. I can find no details of a master plan on the website.

Tramontana and Lotus Driving Academy

The Romerica Group website also claims to have two other automotive related ventures:

  • Lotus Driving Academy located at the track.
  • MSR Tramontana LLC features a high-performance car. However, the site does not say what the group’s contribution to the vehicle is. It says that they are one-of-a-kind vehicles with “excellent levels of production and development” but doesn’t say how many have been built or how to buy one. Tramontana has a separate, dedicated website. That offers a little more detail. But on their partner page, they list a branding company, two fashion designers, and a web developer. I could find no references to manufacturing partners or where the vehicles were made.

FAMA Design

Romerica Group’s website also shows a company, FAMA Design, that sells rustic doors, windows and furniture online. Unfortunately, when you try to order something, you find that the site’s security certificate has expired. You get the following warning:

Warning message when you check out from FAMA Design.

Romerica Insurance

Romerica Insurance does not have its own web site. However, it does have several Facebook pages. They sell many different types of insurance, including – ironically – flood insurance. FaceBook also lists an office for the insurance company at the Angleton racetrack.

Romerica Real Estate

Romerica Real Estate does not have its own web site either. The link to Romerica Real Estate from the Romerica Groups Home Page is broken. HAR.com (Houston Area Realors) says that the Romerica Real Estate “page is no longer active.” Same for FaceBook. A Google search returns dozens of other “page not found” error messages. The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) shows that the company’s account is “inactive.” TREC also lists the real estate company’s address as the racetrack in Angleton.

The Texas Real Estate Commission lists the Romerica Real Estate, LLC account as inactive even though it has not expired. Note that the TREC also lists the address for the real estate company at the race track.

Torrenova Cuernavaca

Another link from the Romerica Group Home Page goes to Torrenova Cuernavaca. The subhead says it deals with Romerica land in Mexico. Last month, clicking on the link yielded another dead-end search.

However, the Torrenova-Cueranvaca site has since been updated to include concept drawings. It shows no actual photos of anything the “company” has constructed, though the site does list prices. Like the Romerica Group itself, Torrenova Cuernavaca is not registered to do business in the state of Texas (though in fairness, the site is in Spanish).

American Vision EB-5

American Vision Regional Center also appears on the Romerica Group home page. American Vision’s contact page shows that the formal name for the company as “B US TOTAL INVESTOR, LLC.” It IS registered in the State of Texas. B US TOTAL INVESTOR lists American Vision Regional Center as its assumed name. Gabriel M. Haddad, one of the managers, lists his address on a street that does not exist.

American Vision Regional Center solicits investments through the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service EB-5 program. EB-5 visas offer a legal pathway into the U.S. for foreign investors, their spouses and family members under 21.

While the EB-5 program is real, the developer’s website features a building that purports to be part of the Marina project, but is not. The building’s construction was canceled due to lack of pre-leasing activity; it was actually designed for a project in downtown Houston on Waugh unrelated to the developers.


  • The contact phone number for the site is disconnected. 
  • The office has been reported as vacant.
  • The site refers people to another site that does not exist (AmericanVisionCenterEB5.com).
  • The developers have been highlighted in InternationalAppraiser.com for “touting fake EB-5 projects.” 
  • Foreign investors are suing the developers for fraud in Houston district court. (See MARIA DEL CARMEN BORBOLLA AND MARIA DEL CARMEN GOMEZ, CAUSE NO. 2018 – 07276, 157th Judicial Court, Harris County, Tx.) 
  • Clicking on the home page of AmericanVision.com takes the viewer to an unrelated site (AmericanVision.org) that sells religious books. AmericanVision.org is registered to a seemingly unrelated company in Paris, France.
  • The landing page for AmericanVision.com shows links to four sub-pages: Why EB-5?, Info For Investors, FAQs, and Our Parters. Links to each page are broken. They take you to a “page not found” error message on the bookstore site.

Warning to Potential EB-5 Investors

If you are considering investing in ANY EB-5 project, understand that the EB-5 program has been plagued by fraud. Visit this Securities and Exchange Commission page (Investor Alert: Investment Scams Exploit Immigrant Investor Program). It explains how to check out the validity of projects and recognize the warning signs of fraud.

The SEC’s first warning sign: “Promises of a visa or becoming a lawful permanent resident.” The text explains, “Investing through EB-5 makes you eligible to apply for a conditional visa, but there is no guarantee that USCIS will grant you a conditional visa or subsequently remove the conditions on your lawful permanent residency. USCIS carefully reviews each case and denies cases where eligibility rules are not met. Guarantees of the receipt or timing of a visa or green card are warning signs of fraud.

Copy on the AmericanVision.com About Us Page clearly states that their program was “…designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to offer Investor Visa / Green Card through the EB5 Immigrant Investor Program.”

Last line of copy shown above seemingly violates SEC guidelines.

To be clear, I am not accusing Romerica or its management of fraud. I am merely repeating US government advice for investors to be cautious in these circumstances.

Domain-Registration Dead End

A “WhoIs” database search for the owner of AmericanVision.com showed that the domain name is owned by Romerica Investments.

Although the domain RomericaInvestments.com was registered in 2016, it still shows a “Future Home of” page and nothing else. A WhoIs search for RomericaInvestments.com does not show a contact for the web site.

When Will Developers Appear to Answer Questions?

Numerous questions exist about the people applying for permits to build high-rises feet away from the floodway of the San Jacinto? They surely know that the area where they want to build 25-50 story high rises will soon be INCLUDED in the floodway when new flood maps are approved. Who would build there? Why?

I do not wish to speculate on the motives of the developers. I can only point out inconsistencies that do not inspire confidence. Especially for someone developing what Houston City Council Member Dave Martin has described as a $2.5 billion project. Especially when they’ve shown no evidence that they have ever built anything.

Despite my seven requests for a meeting, the developers have refused to meet publicly to answer questions. Their official point of contact at the Manlove Advertising and PR agency has stated that they may consider one AFTER the public comment period closes.

One can only hope that the Army Corps and TCEQ will exercise due diligence in consideration of these permit requests.

As always, these comments represent my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 17, 2019

538 Days After Hurricane Harvey

High-Rise Developers Make New Claims, Give Themselves Most Generous Disclaimer in History of Words

The developers of the proposed high-rise development near River Grove Park launched a new web site today, TheHeronsKingwood.com. In it, they make many new claims designed to put the public’s concerns to rest. It had the opposite effect on me. Why?

  • They told the Corps the Marina would hold 640 boats. It’s 160 boats larger now. The website video states 800.
  • The Army Corps thinks the development is 331 acres. The website claims 364.
  • After telling community leaders they would hold a public meeting before the close of the comment period, they now say after.
  • After previously touting their connections to an Italian architectural firm, Torrisi and Procopio (which I suspected was a fake site), they now say Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) developed the design. But SOM in San Francisco referred me to their legal department, which did not take my calls. The Italian site was developed in English and registered in Aruba by a Canadian Company.
  • They now claim that a subsidiary of Romerica Investments, the Romerica Group, will develop the project. They claim Romerica Group has existed since 2007 and is located in Houston. The Texas Secretary of State has no listing for Romerica Group. Neither do Florida, Delaware or Alberta, Canada – other known locations where the developers have incorporated. The phone number listed on the Romerica Group website is disconnected. The office was unoccupied last time I checked several weeks ago.
  • “Romerica Group” does not appear on any of the permit applications associated with this project at the Army Corps, City of Houston or Harris County Flood Control.
  • Romerica Investments does not own the property being permitted.
  • They claim that 25-story condominium towers are single family homes. That’s the world’s largest family!
  • They say that only the northern half of the development is subject to height restrictions without offering any proof that “single-family residential” deed restrictions have been removed from the southern half.
  • They claim they’re creating a connection to Hamblin Road (sic), which the Corps Public Notice does not mention and no one in Forest Cove seems to know about.
  • They claim that “Both the city and county have approved construction and permits have been issued, they have determined that the community will not have an adverse effect on surrounding communities.” This makes it sound like they have been given permits for the entire development. Not true. Neither is the second half of the statement. Developers requested a permit to start excavating the marina. They promised they would haul excavated material offsite. However, things changed by the time the Corps issued its public notice. The public notice states that they will use the fill to raise the elevation 12 feet. Hmmm. Sounds like cause to revoke those permits to me!
  • They again claim that raising elevations to 57 feet will make the buildings flood safe when the area has flooded over 57 feet at least six times in the last 25 years.
  • They call roads an alternative mode of transportation!
  • They think ExxonMobil is spelled Exxon Mobile.

But the best part is this! Read the disclaimer. It’s the most self-generous disclaimer in the history of words. Nobody is responsible for anything the site says. Make sure you read the fine print.

Ain’t nobody responsible for nothin’.

As always, this post represents my opinions on matters of public policy. They are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Posted by Bob Rehak on February 12, 2019

532 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Will High-Rise Marina Project Meet Army Corps’ Criteria for “Needed”?

As we saw in a previous post, Army Corps regulations stipulate that a developer must prove there is a need for his/her project before destroying wetlands. Further, the Corps assumes that the developer has done due diligence in assessing market conditions.

“Has Romerica Investments done due diligence? Is this project needed?” In my opinion, the answer is no. It consists of condominiums 65-feet high in the flood plain, plus 25-50 story retail, commercial and hotel structures arranged around a marina. That marina is in the floodway of the San Jacinto River’s West Fork.

Looking northwest from the southeastern tip of the proposed high-rise marina district Imagine 50-story high rises in the narrow strip of land between the lake and the Barrington in the background. Look below to see the scale.

But growth in the Humble ISD has slowed from 6% to 1% because of concerns over flooding. The number-one need we have now is to restore safety by mitigating flood risk. This project will worsen flood risk and there is little demand for it – especially in this location. The Corps should deny this permit until the safety of the community can be assured.

Drawn to vertical scale.

The developer plans to build more than 3 million square feet of hotel, commercial, retail and residential space in the floodplain. Yet, since Harvey, we can’t fill all the homes we have – even those on higher ground. About a quarter of the retail space in Town Center and King’s Harbor is still vacant. There’s little demand for commercial space. And existing hotels can handle travelers just fine, thank you.

Previous Attempt to Build Retail Mall in Kingwood Failed

It’s also hard to see how Kingwood’s population would support another shopping mall and theater. We already have a major 1.2 million SF regional mall right across the river in Humble. We also have three theaters with 44 screens within 5 miles. Also, consider that online shopping and streaming services, such as Amazon and Netflix, are stealing market share from malls and movie theaters all over America.

A previous attempt to build a small mall in Kingwood resulted in abject failure. The mall was on the southwest corner of Kingwood Drive and US59. After sitting vacant for years, HCA bought the structure and converted it into a community hospital.

Market Review Does Not Consider Location-Specific Factors

The market review conducted by the applicant mentioned none of this. It focused on job growth in Texas and Houston. It totally ignored the local Kingwood market and site-specific considerations. Conducted before Harvey, the survey has NOT been updated to reflect flooding concerns.

That said, most existing homes and businesses in Kingwood are on much higher ground. Raising this project 12 feet above its current elevation to 57′ won’t raise it out of harms way. Far from it. We’ve had six floods higher than that since 1994 – an average of one every FOUR years. That’s an increase over the previous 65 years when we had just three – one every 22 years..

The build-it-and-they-will-come mentality in post-Harvey Houston invites disappointment down the road. It will create white elephants that leave permanent scars on the landscape after destroying the fragile wetlands that we so desperately need to absorb and store floodwaters.

Raising Elevation Will Raise Costs

However, raising the entire project 12 feet WILL raise costs. And therefore, it will price sales and rentals far above the rest of the market – in an area (i.e., floodplain) that people are wary of after Harvey.

In my opinion, the combination of higher costs, less demand, less traffic, remote location, and local opposition will doom this project from the start.

Incomplete Market Analysis

The developer’s market conditions report looks only at economic growth projections for the State of Texas and City of Houston.

  • It does not include any evaluation of local Kingwood-specific factors, such as occupancy rates. 
  • It includes no staples of market analysis such as traffic counts or trading radius.
  • It does not consider the feasibility of anchor attractions, such as the marina and retail mall. For instance, can the West Fork even accommodate the volume and size of boats in the marina? Will retailers support a mall at the end of a dead-end road, four miles from the nearest highway, devoid of any through traffic, that floods every time we get four inches of rain?
  • It says comparable projects around the country were surveyed, but makes no mention of them. It contains no competitive analysis.
  • It reads like a prospectus targeted at investors, but contains no mention of risk.
  • The authorship of the analysis is redacted; we do not know who conducted the survey or what credentials they have.
  • Finally, it contains no mention of flooding or Harvey. 

These omissions feel like serious flaws in Romerica’s market analysis. The Corps should not approve a permit based on such work. There is no demonstrable need to destroy these wetlands.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/1/2019

521 Days since Hurricane Harvey