A California couple who since 2009 has been sounding the alarm about their losing real estate venture with Donald Trump now wants voters in Maine’s 2nd District to know they are originally from Aroostook County.
Linda and Stephen Drake, originally from Allagash and Caribou, are among the people around the country who say they lost money to a business connected with the Republican presidential nominee.
In the final stretch of the presidential campaign, amid new sexual assault allegations against Trump, Linda and Stephen Drake are speaking out again with their tale of apparently losing money on Trump-licensed condos that were never built — and with their fears about the future of the country.
“I pray that sensible people want to keep harmony and peace in this country,” Linda Drake said in an interview Friday. “As a psychologist, a mother, a wife, a community activist, it hurts me to see where our country is going.”
The couple are originally from Aroostook County, she from Allagash and he from Caribou, and they’ve lived in southern California since the late 1970s, when Linda came for graduate school. By the 2000s, both were successful in their careers, Linda in organizational psychology and Stephen as a United Parcel Service pilot, and they wanted to invest in a vacation home nearby.
In 2006 they thought they found what they were looking for in the Trump Ocean Resort Baja, which was advertised around Greater Los Angeles and marketed by Ivanka Trump in information sessions, and planned for construction two hours south of their home along Mexico’s coast. The Drakes made a $240,000 down payment on an $800,000, two-bedroom condo. The project, Drake said, was never built — amid a confluence of problems that included permitting issues and the beginning of the Great Recession — and they never got back the full amount of their down payment.
“We would wait and wait and wait — six years,” she said. They eventually got a letter from a Mexican firm saying the project would not be built, and refunds were not available, she said. The Drakes connected with the other would-be condo buyers, hired two young attorneys and sued.
The project was supposed to be built by the Colorado-based Irongate Capital Partners and licensed with the Trump brand, via the Trump Organization company, and both ended up settling with the investors for undisclosed sums in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The would-be condo owners who settled agreed with the companies not to divulge how much money they received.
“We were not satisfied,” Linda Drake said. “We can’t tell what we got back, but we lost money. He used our money for six years.”
“It’s not like we had a whole lot of money and could out and buy this. We worked hard for our money and still do,” she said.
Requests for comment sent to the Trump campaign and Trump Organization have not been returned. In a March 2016 story in the New York Daily News, a Trump Organization spokesperson said: “If you’re buying real estate, especially preconstruction, you have got to understand the risks and be capable of bearing the losses. [The development] fell victim to the worst financial crisis and real estate crisis we have seen since the Great Depression.”
The ordeal left the Drakes with a deep skepticism of Trump as he entered the presidential campaign, and now a sense of urgency to move past the divisive climate that’s coincided with his rise to the nomination. They spoke to the Associated Press about the failed deal in 2009, and talked with the New York Daily News about the Trump campaign earlier this year. The Maine Democratic Party put the Drakes in touch with the Bangor Daily News for this story.
“It pains me to see people following him,” said Drake, who described herself as a “churchgoing” registered Democrat who occasionally breaks ranks with the party.
The Drakes visit The County somewhat regularly. Stephen Drake’s parents still live on a family farm property, while Linda’s parents are both deceased.
Drake also credits their career success to their experiences growing up in rural, farming communities. She has long run her own psychology business, consulting companies and governmental organizations on issues such as interpersonal relations and prevention of worker-management conflicts.
Drake picked potatoes from the age of 10 — and her dad, Louis Pelletier, raised buffalo in addition to working as a logger — and in college at the University of Maine at Presque Isle she worked two seasons as a field manager for the late Caribou farmer Carroll Anderson. Anderson later nominated Drake to the National Potato Board, which she served on for seven years even as she worked in a non-agricultural field of organizational psychology.
“Perseverance, working for reward, working as a team — I learned all of that in the potato harvest,” Drake said. “All of those skills gave me freedom.”