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Owner may lose mansion

Tom Jackson • May 25, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Annie George lost her husband and son when their small plane crashed in a river.

The federal government wants to take away her home to punish her for allegedly treating an illegal alien like a slave. She had to serve her immigration conviction cooped up on house arrest, although conditions presumably weren’t Spartan in her 30,000-square-foot mansion.

So maybe the recent loss of her Clarion Inn hotel in Fremont to bankruptcy isn’t the biggest problem in her life.

The bankrupt hotel, closed since August, has just been purchased by a Toledo-area company and will reopen in a few weeks.

Mathai Kolath George, 42, his son, George Kolath, 11, and Krishnan Raghavan, 52, died in a small plane crash in June 2009. The plane crashed in the Mohawk River in Glenville, New York, northwest of Albany.

George was the founder and CEO of the Kolath Hospitality Group, according to his official obituary.    

Press reports said he owned several hotels and was the brother of Bollywood actor Tom George Kolath. He was survived by his wife, Annie George, also known as Annie Kolath, and his five other children.

Annie George’s troubles didn’t end with the death of her husband and son.

In 2013, she went on trial for charges of harboring an illegal alien for financial gain.

According to an article by Robert Gavin, published March 6, 2013, on the website of the Albany Times Union, witness Valsamma Mathai told jurors she worked as a virtual slave laborer, putting in 18-hour shifts in Annie George’s Llenroc, New York, mansion, never enjoying a day off and being forced to sleep in a closet.

Annie George was convicted of harboring an illegal alien. According to a Times Union followup story, also written by Gavin, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe sentenced her to eight months of home detention and five years of probation. Sharpe also ordered her home be forfeited to the U.S. government.

The article said Mrs. George’s punishment actually exceeded the prosecution’s recommendation for eight months of house arrest but only two years of probation because the judge apparently was angry about her testimony.

It said Sharpe accused her of lying on the witness stand. “The system of justice does not work when people want to lie and hoodwink juries,” Sharpe told her.

Mrs. George’s attorney, Mark Sacco, did not return a telephone call asking for comment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe said Thursday Annie George has completed her sentence of house arrest.

The U.S. government’s attempted seizure of Mrs. George’s mansion has been stayed, pending the outcome of her appeal to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City, Coombe said. Her appeal is challenging the seizure of her mansion by citing the Eighth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, she said. The amendment bans the imposition of cruel or excessive fines and punishments.

Meanwhile, as Annie George dealt with her family and legal problems, the 157-room Clarion Inn hotel in Fremont, located on Ohio 53 near Fremont, ran into trouble paying its bills.

The fact the hotel owed back taxes caught the attention of Sandusky County auditor William Farrell.

The hotel currently owes $391,752.16, a figure Farrell said includes unpaid sewer bills.

“Once you put the sewer in, you have to pay your sewer bills” he said.

Farrell has been the auditor for 36 years. He said he can’t remember a bigger bill for unpaid taxes.

“I would say that’s probably the biggest unpaid tax liability that’s been out there. That’s why the prosecutor went after it,” Farrell said.

He said county prosecutor Tom Stierwalt filed a tax foreclosure lawsuit in an attempt to collect the back taxes for Sandusky County.

Annie George, who owned the hotel via a company called Fremont Hospitality Group, responded by filing for bankruptcy in federal court, Farrell said.

On May 9, the bankrupt hotel was sold in an auction. Court records in Toledo show Sunrise Hospitality Inc. of Perrysburg bought it for $1.775 million.

Records at the Sandusky County Auditor’s Office show Sunrise Hospitality already owns four other parcels of land in Sandusky County. In fact, Sunrise already owns the hotels that stand alongside the Clarion Inn on Ohio 53, said Ash Patel, a shareholder and partner at Sunrise Hospitality.

Patel said he and his partners plan to reopen the Clarion Inn soon, although it may be reopened under a different name.

It probably will be reopened by mid-June, Patel said. He said the plan is to reopen with 80 rooms.

Farrell said he hopes the county will obtain some of the money from the hotel’s sale to pay off the tax bill.

The federal government and the state of Ohio are ahead in line for unpaid tax claims, Farrell said.

“If you have a large federal tax lien, that could take a good chunk. The state jumps in line next, and then the county” he said.

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