When John Hutchins announced in July 2016 that he had acquired a Main Street property next to his Rapids Theatre and was planning to renovate it and open a pub and grill, a Falls economic development official called the development “one of the largest private sector investments we’ve seen” on North Main Street in decades."
The city’s NFC Development Corp., which oversees small business developments loans and grants, even approved a $100,000 NFC Commercial Assistance grant and a $150,000 NFC direct loan for the project.
But almost four years later, with no work having been done on the property, NFC's board of directors terminated the project loan and grant. The money had never actually been paid out to Hutchins.
Falls Mayor Robert Restaino said a combination of factors led to the termination of the project.
"There were some documents that John's company just never filed," the mayor said.
But another lingering concern for the NFC board was the financial condition of a multitude of Hutchins' controlled businesses and the state of the Lewiston businessman's personal finances.
"There were credit concerns," Restaino confirmed.
Since that time, Hutchins' finances and those of many of his business entities appear to have come under the scrutiny of federal law enforcement. More than $403,000 has been seized from the bank accounts of a Hutchins' employee and an apparently affiliated company.
A filing in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York shows that more than $402,000 was impounded from a Bank on Buffalo account tied to CWE Entertainment Corp. The company is purported to be controlled by Roberto M. Soliman, the chief financial officer of 1711 Main LLC, a Hutchins' holding company that operates the Rapids Theatre.
Federal authorities have also seized more than $1,700 from a Bank on Buffalo personal checking account associated with Soliman.
There are no filings in the federal court clerk's office that explain the reasons for the seizures. It's not clear when the cash was seized.
A spokesperson for the local office of the FBI in Buffalo did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York told the Gazette, "We do not confirm or deny investigations."
The Rapids appears to be operating normally.
A concert by blues guitarist Coco Montoya went on as scheduled on Oct. 8. Both the performer and the concert promoter said they were paid in full for the event
A wedding is set to take place at the theater later today.