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THE RINGMASTER CHIP DIPAULA FLEES MARYLAND FOR THE SAFETY OF FLORIDA HOMESTEAD LAW WHILE LITIGATION MAY CLOSE IN FROM ALL SIDES; ACQUIRES $26 MILLION OCEANFRONT PALACE
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By KEN ROSSIGNOL
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
The worm turned in time for the Ides of March when James C. “Chip” DiPaula Jr hit the bricks and followed the yellow brick road to sunny Florida on March 9, 2022, casting off his important job as chairman of the board of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, which was part of his grand scheme to become Maryland’s governor.
DiPaula, the former budget director and chief of staff to Governor Bob Ehrlich, is the subject of a Rico-based federal lawsuit claiming he and Maryland Judge Michael White, St. Mary’s Deputy States Attorney Daniel White and Maryland State Police Commander Lt. George White, and others conspired to steal trade secrets, embezzled funds, and other various allegations involving millions of dollars. The news of the federal suit was reported first by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY on February 17, 2022.
Governor Larry Hogan appointed DiPaula to the UMMS board in 2019. The body was roiled in scandals of self-dealing of board members and political corruption involving the then-Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh. The system bought a half-million dollars worth of her children’s books without ever reading them.
DiPaula’s claim that he was quitting was putting lipstick on a pig as his abrupt departure has all the familiar earmarks of being fired.
DiPaula, thru a trust controlled by him, sold a $7 million 4,097 square foot condominium at 101 Worth Ave., in the Kirkland House in Midtown Palm Beach on May 20, 2021 according to Florida land records.
DiPaula, using a trust known as 456 South Ocean Boulevard Trust, paid $26,070,000 on May 21, 2021, to 456 South Ocean LLC for a new Mediterranean-style townhouse located on the site of the famous Charley’s Crabs in Palm Beach, Florida.
The home bought by DiPaula was one of four townhouses built on the site by developer Robert Frisbe of the Frisbe Group.
The home has five bedrooms, seven baths, a swimming pool, spa, elevator, wine cellar, exercise room, and features cypress balconies, red barrel-tile roof, tapered chimney, stucco exterior, cast-stone decorations, and 280 feet of beachfront across the coastal road.
Florida’s Homestead law protects the personal residence from creditors, which could become a serious challenge for DiPaula should the litigation brought by Compass Marketing prevail and any possible recovery efforts of the U.K. firm which paid DiPaula $400 million for Flywheel. The litigation brought by Compass Marketing CEO John White alleges that DiPaula and Patrick Miller, while employed at Compass for four years, stole trade secrets and started Flywheel in 2014. In addition, the federal lawsuit lays out a pattern of conduct of purloining both employees and customers of Compass.
Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution exempts homestead property from levy and execution by most judgment creditors. This protection means that a creditor cannot place a lien against or force the sale of your homestead to satisfy an obligation or monetary judgment. The law protects a homeowner if it meets certain conditions, one of which is that the property, if in a town, not be more than one-half of an acre in size, which fits the purchase of the townhouse by DiPaula on South Ocean Boulevard. The law also works for DiPaula’s sudden declaration that he is a Florida resident in that protection is effective immediately upon establishing residency.
Another big win for DiPaula is that the law says that the value of the property protected is unlimited. Consequently, a debtor may purchase and improve a parcel of property within these acreage parameters up to any amount, resulting in improvements and land being protected from creditors.
OWNER OF FAMOUS CHARLEY’S VANISHED IN
1993 IDES OF MARCH STORM
While the wily and talented Chip DiPaula becomes the most notorious new resident of Florida to live on the site once home to Charley’s Crab restaurant, it will take a lot of doing to top the disappearing act of Chuck Muer in the Bermuda Triangle. Muer owned the restaurant and about twenty other establishments in South Florida and several other states.
Muer, his wife, and two friends from Michigan, George and Lynn Drummey, sailed Muer’s 40-foot sailboat to the Bahamas, also just in time for the Ides of March. Muer left Berry’s Islands north of Nassau and was lost in a severe late winter storm. The sailboat was a fiberglass Freedom 40 built in 1977 and was equipped with a beacon to use in emergencies to a satellite, but the Coast Guard said it was not activated.
Muer’s restaurants were located in Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C, and employed over 2,000 people. Charley’s in Michigan still operates.
Charley’s lease in Palm Beach ran out in 2018 when the property was sold to the developer who built the new townhouses in the prime spot in Palm Beach. The Town of Palm Beach and its residents have now acquired The Ringmaster Chip DiPaula as a unique and illustrious part of the future history of the exclusive area.