The main developer behind the failed Running Horse development plead guilty in court, Wednesday. Tom O'Meara III was the man behind the infamous golf and country club development, in Southwest Fresno.
Tom O'Meara defrauded more than 50 investors in the ill-fated project which cost them more than $16 million. O'Meara's plea deal includes an agreement to pay at least $7 million in restitution to victims.
The 220 acre parcel was supposed to be an expansive golf course, 18 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus with 780 luxury homes, but that never happened. From 2004 to 2007, people invested thousands, even millions of dollars into the project and to live near such a place. So when O’Meara pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges, those investors were relieved.
Teresa Martinez bought a home in a neighborhood across the street from running horse in hopes of being part of the supposed to be luxury development. She expressed, “Wow, that is amazing to hear. I'm happy that it's finally come to a closure to some extent. No stories worse than anyone else's out here and we've all waited a long time for this.”
She didn't want to disclose how much money she lost but she did say, it hasn't been easy, “Long road, kind of wondering, why us? You know? But it was four years instead of one year. Usually it's one year to go into a new home offer it's been built, so that was the worst part.”
O'Meara fraudulently recruited investors for the development by making false promises and hiding its problems. Cissie Vigen's late husband was the architect for the project. She said, “We lost $600,000 during the course of my husband being the architect on the project and in that $600,000 we owned two lots out there and the rest was in architectural fees. I'm glad for everyone that it's over.”
Since her husband's passing, Vigen's made it a priority to help continue the project.
“I have continued to pursue this on my own level. I wouldn't be the developer, but I could put the team together. It's an amazing thing that could happen in the whole west side of Fresno,” said Vigen.
Martinez doesn't mind the idea and is keeping hopeful. She said, “Sure! So I would have a good place to walk!”
O'Meara sold the project in 2007 and declared bankruptcy. Donald Trump actually tried taking over the project. He eventually backed out when Fresno wouldn't allow famous domain powers to obtain some property.
Tom O'Meara has been on home detention in Palm Desert since his arrest, last August. His sentencing will take place on November 14th. He faces up to 30 years in prison.