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Battered Businessman Gets His 350-Grand From Palm Beach Gardens

Frederick Sancilio had to sweat a little more than he might have expected, but last night the founder of a failed biotech in North Carolina managed to get the $350,000 loan he wanted from Palm Beach Gardens. The South Florida Business Journal reports that the city council voted 3-2 in favor of the loan to Sancilio & Co., which makes vitamins.

We sounded a skeptical note about Sancilio in yesterday's post. But Palm Beach Gardens staff and officials are privy to more information about Sancilio than the public. Plus, he wasn't busted for fraud -- that was the company's chief operating officer. And you can imagine how that case then made it difficult for him to save the company, AAIPharma, from bankruptcy. The Biz Journal article from June 26 says he'd kept that company going from its founding in 1979 till he stepped aside as CEO in 2002.

Or at least that's what it looks like when you give Sancilio the benefit of the doubt. But given what else we know, there's just as much reason to feel queasy about this investment.

As that June 26 article points out, the entity pushing Sancilio is the Palm Beach County Business Development Board, in particular Andrew Duffell, who happens to sit on an economic development board in Jupiter with Sancilio, who convinced that town to back another $350,000 loan.

You hope that Duffell relies on more organic methods for identifying skilled entrepreneurs than simply mingling at a board meeting, and maybe he does. But then the next thing we learn is that when Duffell told the city council about Sancilio in June he either didn't know or didn't bother mentioning the fraud case and bankruptcy that ruined AAIPharma. It's the kind of omission you'd expect from a lobbyist, but not a nonprofit organization whose county funding should bring with it the obligation to be absolutely frank when telling town and cities about businesses seeking public money.

It certainly bothered Councilwoman Judy Barnett, who admitted to relying on the BDB for assurances about Sancilio and who last night joined Mayor Joe Russo in voting against the loan.

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Thomas Francis

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