Downtown Bentonville property, with competing liens, heads to auction

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 9,366 views 

Lucrative Bentonville real estate that belongs to a former business owner convicted of sexual assault is headed to public auction.

On Nov. 17, Circuit Judge Doug Schrantz ordered the property at 904 S.E. Residents Way and 906 E. Central Ave. to be sold at auction. The 1.87-acre commercial property is near the Central and J street intersection, adjacent from the west to a Casey’s General Store and north of Brick Avenue Lofts, an upscale apartment complex developed by Fayetteville-based Specialized Real Estate Group.

Angel Floro and his wife, Teresita, own the property, including the vacant Better Home Living assisted living facility. Floro pleaded guilty in December 2018 to two counts of second-degree sexual assault involving two residents who lived at the facility, including Nancy Tillery, who suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. Floro was sentenced to 12 years of probation and 75 days in jail. The facility’s license was revoked by the Arkansas Department of Human Services last year.

The property has two liens, including a $3 million mortgage dating back to 2014 formerly held by Centennial Bank, and a $1.5 million judgment awarded in 2019 on behalf of Tillery’s guardianship. That judgment resulted from a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Rogers attorney Sean Keith on behalf of Catherine Geisler, Tillery’s sister and guardian.

The competing judgments have put the Central Avenue property at the center of months of legal wrangling involving the two creditors.

In June, according to court documents, Rogers attorney Brian Ferguson, through his ICR Holding LLC, bought the outstanding balance of the Centennial Bank loan, $2.1 million. Ferguson, president of Ozark Asset Management Inc., claimed that lien should be declared superior to the Geisler judgment, and the Floro property should be foreclosed.

In a counterclaim, Keith said Geisler should have priority over ICR and that the valuable property should be sold through a receivership, as opposed to a foreclosure sale, to obtain the highest value for the property. That would make sure Tillery, who turned 76 in September, received as much as possible in the sale toward her judgment.

“The Benton County property at issue sits in arguably the most valuable area of the country,” Keith wrote in the counterclaim. “Multiple parcels of property which surround it have sold for multiple millions of dollars over the past two years. Further, the headquarters of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-mart Stores, Inc. (sic) is being built within yards of the corner of this property.”

Judge Schrantz denied Keith’s arguments and granted ICR’s motion to have the property sold at foreclosure.

According to online real estate websites, the Floro property is listed by Troy Jacobs with Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney Faucette for $3.3 million. The initial listing offer was $5 million in March 2019.

It will be sold at commissioner’s sale at 9:30 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 10) at the Benton County Courthouse to the highest bidder. In a statement to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Keith said it would be “very disappointing” if his clients don’t benefit from the property sale.

“Every dollar over the amount of $2.1 million for which the property sells at foreclosure auction goes to Nancy’s judgment,” Keith said. “So it’s our hope there are developers in our community that recognize they can get an incredible piece of property at a discounted amount and at the same time help Cathy take care of her sister in a way that she deserves for her remaining days.

“Nancy endured multiple sexual assaults from this predator [Floro]. Her sister Cathy fought to ensure that it never happened again. These sisters will always be owed a debt of gratitude from our community for removing this house of horrors that was within a stone’s throw of Crystal Bridges [Museum of American Art] and the new Walmart headquarters.”

Ferguson declined to comment.