Charges dropped in Manatee land case

SARASOTA -- An Orlando man accused of defrauding investors on a failed residential development in Manatee County will not face criminal charges.

Prosecutors declined to file formal charges against Mark A. Brivik, 56, ending a complex, six-month legal case.

“He’s enormously relieved,” Orlando attorney Rodolfo Celis said of his client Wednesday. “I’m thrilled for him, that this black cloud hanging over his head was lifted.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Brivik and his then-estranged wife, Marie, on fraud and securities charges last July. The couple divorced in August, and prosecutors dropped all four charges against Marie Brivik in October.

FDLE accused the pair of defrauding seven investors of River Meadows, a proposed residential subdivision between the upper Manatee River and Mill Creek Road. An FDLE arrest affidavit said Mark Brivik falsely told investors he had an option to buy a key tract for the project, as well as other misrepresentations.

The agency charged Mark Brivik, who was free on $100,000 bond, with 23 counts of organized scheme to defraud, fraudulent transactions/omission of fact, sale of unregistered security and sale of security by unregistered issuer.

But in dropping the case, Assistant State Attorney Guy Flowers said FDLE failed to prove two key points: That the land deal was a security, and that the option existed.

The investors would have to be “passive” for the land deal to meet the state’s definition of a security, and that was not the case here, he said in an internal memorandum provided by his office.

“Each investor disclosed that he took/undertook an affirmative, active role as a member of the corporation in an effort to seek a return on his investment,” Flowers wrote.

“Therefore, the state cannot prove the securities allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.”

There was no legal option because purchase terms, such as the price, were never agreed to or written down, Flowers said.

He also said the investors knew it was “merely a ‘choice’ to buy the property as the third and final piece of development.”

FDLE spokesman Keith Kameg said the agency “respects the decision of the State Attorney’s Office” and had no further comment.

Duane Marsteller, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.