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Stan Thomas Accused Of Hiding Assets To Avoid Paying Judgment On Airplanes

Atlanta Retail

A once-prolific Atlanta retail developer is being accused of hiding assets to avoid paying more than $7M on loans that cover three personal aircraft.

Cessna 750 Citation X private airliner, the model previously owned by Atlanta developer Stan Thomas.

Ciras Inc. is suing Stan Thomas for $7.3M in unpaid balances resulting from a 2013 judgment from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia that Thomas must repay loans secured by a Cessna 525A, a Cessna Model 750 Citation X and a Gulfstream Aerospace GV-SP aircraft, according to a lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

The three loans’ original principal amounts exceeded a total of $60M, according to the original lawsuit filed by Banc of America Leasing & Capital in 2013. While the original judgment was $4M, Virginia-based Ciras alleges the unpaid debt has accrued interest. BALC foreclosed on the airplanes and sold them to pay off part of Thomas’ debt.

Thomas, who now operates Thomas Land & Development in Newnan, hasn't been in active development for a few years and has had no source of income during that time, according to documents. But Ciras alleges that Thomas has diverted “substantial sums of money and other assets” to his spouse and other shell companies in order to “frustrate his creditors’ collection efforts” and make him “judgment-proof,” said Tyler Henderson, the founder of Briarwood Legal who filed the suit on behalf of Ciras in Fulton County Superior Court in August.

Henderson declined to comment on the story. Thomas didn't return calls seeking comment. According to the suit, the aircraft were used for business purposes.

Ciras alleges that Thomas gave control of a $15M Sharpsburg, Georgia, home; a nearby 380-acre cattle farm; a $2.5M, 5K SF home on Lake Burton in Georgia; and two condominiums on New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to a creditor named John D. Phillips as collateral for a loan around 2000.

By 2017, JDP foreclosed on the properties “but allowed the Thomases to continue using them rent free, with the Thomases paying nothing more than taxes, insurance and maintenance costs,” Henderson wrote in the suit. 

“While the Thomases and Mr. Phillips may have had a legitimate debtor-creditor relationship at one time, it morphed into an asset protection strategy over the past few years,” he said in the suit. “The businesses are mere alter egos of Mr. Thomas because he and the companies are so inextricably intertwined that the companies should not be regarded as separate legal entities. Mr. Thomas controls all aspects of the businesses’ operations, and he has done so since those entities were formed.”

Thomas is renowned in Atlanta commercial real estate circles for being one of the pioneers of retail power centers across the nation, including his signature project, The Forum on Peachtree Parkway, a 500K SF open-air shopping center anchored by Barnes & Noble and Belk that opened in 2006. The property has gone through subsequent ownership and is now held by North American Properties, which is redeveloping the project with residential.

Beginning in the 1980s, Thomas built a retail empire with a special focus on the Southeast. Thomas developed such projects as Venture Pointe in Duluth and Fayette, Newnan, Douglas and Southlake pavilions. But in 2009, Thomas put some of his projects into bankruptcy and put many others up for sale. Thomas also was once the owner of the 106-acre parcel in Alpharetta that was planned to be a sprawling mixed-use project known as Prospect Place in the early 2000s. That property fell into foreclosure and was later acquired by North American Properties, which turned it into one of Atlanta’s mixed-use crown jewels, Avalon