LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The defunct Health Support Network Inc., which did business as Center for Building Hope and Brides Against Breast Cancer, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.
The bankruptcy filed U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa listed nearly $3.8 million in liabilities, and $2.5 million in assets.
Health Support Network's primary asset is the Lakewood Ranch campus at 5481 Communications Pkwy., valued at $2,431,200.
Faced with a dismal financial picture, Center for Building Hope, which provided free services to cancer patients and their families, laid off the last of its staff and closed abruptly in September.
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The meltdown at Center for Building Hope included running deficits for several years, according to IRS filings, and defaulting on a more than $2 million mortgage.
The annual compensation for CEO Carl Ritter had grown to $335,291 a year.
Health Support Network Inc. also defaulted on a $500,000 loan from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which it was supposed to repay by Dec. 31, 2015.
Mark Pritchett, president and chief executive officer of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, confirmed Wednesday that a donor who guaranteed the loan is making good on the final $400,000 of that loan.
Jewish Family and Childrens Services of the Suncoast Inc. agreed to deliver services to the cancer patients and families left stranded by the shuttering of Center for Building Hope.
"They are doing a really good job, and doing it at a fraction of the cost," Pritchett said.
Ritter, who was forced out as CEO of Health Support Network in August, faces
a criminal complaint filed with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office by Brian Mariash, co-chairman of the center's board.
The complaint alleges Ritter set up his own company, Sarasota Finance LLC, and diverted donations into Ritter's company account.
On July 23, the center's board directed Ritter to return the funds and he refused, keeping about $20,000, according to the complaint.
The complaint is still under investigation, said Wendy Rose, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.
Ritter earlier filed an employment suit against The Health Support Network Inc., seeking damages in excess of $15,000, and alleges The Health Support Network Inc. owes him in excess of $300,000 for unpaid severance for a year's salary, benefits and bonuses.
A key factor in the downfall of Health Support Network appears to be the acquisition of Brides Against Breast Cancer.
The Brides operation, which sold used wedding gowns at events around the United States, became too cumbersome and had a cash flow problem, Ron Gelbman previously told the Bradenton Herald.
Gelbman, a retired corporate executive, served as unpaid interim CEO after the financial ruin at Health Support Network became public.
Tom Cardoza of Parrish is one of many donors who assisted Center for Building Hope.
Cardoza and others in his neighborhood raised funds for the Center for Building Hope through cancer walks. Cardoza also bought three bricks inscribed in memory of family members at $150 each.
"We had a friend with cancer who went to the Center for Building Hope, and reported that the service was great, and that it helped him a lot," Cardoza said. "It's a great disappointment."
A call to the attorney for Health Support Network for comment was not immediately returned.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1. Business reporter Janelle O'Dea assisted with this report.