USA Springs founder files for personal bankruptcy

Francesco Rotondo, the president of USA Springs, the water bottling company now offered for sale through the bankruptcy court, filed last month for Chapter 7 bankruptcy himself.

Rotondo, a Pelham resident who said he has put millions of dollars of his own money into the venture, said he is filing for bankruptcy protection to fend off foreclosure on his $500,000 Maine home. But he also said he was filing in the hope that his creditors would pressure federal officials to more aggressively pursue a $60 million judgment against Malom Group Ltd., a Swiss financing company under investigation for fraud, as well as those who did due diligence on Malom.

"I'm just like David with a slingshot, and I'm going to lay down these S.O.B. Goliaths that ruined my company. They are all gong to fall," Rotondo told NHBR.

Rotondo has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since he proposed to withdraw and bottle more than 300,000 gallons of water a day near on the border of Nottingham and Barrington. With the plant only partially finished, USA Springs declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to find financing.

So far, Thomas Raftery, the attorney for USA Springs, said there has only been one solid offer, for about $1 million — ironically from a businessman allied with some of the plant's opponents — but several other companies are kicking around the idea, including a bottling company in California.

The bankruptcy court has also hired Peter Sutton, a partner at Riemer & Braunstein — the firm of former USA Springs bankruptcy attorney Alan Braunstein — to work on a commission basis, to work with Swiss prosecutors to collect the judgment against Malom.

Rotondo's $71.3 million in assets include that $60 million judgment as well as a 54 percent interest in the property at Nottingham, allegedly worth $10.4 million, and another $500,000 for his home in Maine.

His debts include $8.4 million owed to Roswell Commercial Mortgage on the USA Springs property and a $1.23 million mortgage owed on the Maine residence.

Rotondo said that he purchased the Maine home in 2006 because he felt his family was in danger in Pelham due to the controversy over USA Springs, blaming a fire in his barn on the Nottingham property, a truck crashing into his Pelham home and threatening phone calls. Rotondo contends the opposition is due to his Italian origin. Opponents, who deny any ill will toward Rotondo, say they are only interested in protecting their water supply.

Rotondo is hoping his personal creditors "will increase the pressure on the trustee's office to do the right thing — to go after that judgment."


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