For a decade, Scarlett Rabalais has owned and operated the little Ask Me Inn on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
And during that time, she has accumulated a lot of loyal and adoring guests who rave about her hospitality and attention to detail. One guest wrote in a review of Rabalais, a former Playboy bunny and USO dancer who spent two years entertaining the troops, running out to his family with umbrellas when it began to rain. "I had to tell her she wasn't my mother and we'd be OK without bumbershoots," he wrote.
Here are some excerpts from other reviews:
-- "We had the nicest room with comfy double beds, sweet kitchen with all the
fixin's... and a nice large bath... but the best part is when the owner Scarlett comes over to chat with us... She's a true
Southern Bell. I'm looking forward to going back there next year... I know Mom is
-- "Scarlett, the owner of the Hotel, the sweetest person ever, gave us this beautiful pink room which felt just like home! The Hotel is so close to the beach, to the great shopping mall Galleria and to many great restaurants... one could not find a better place to stay."
All of that is gone now. Rabalais this morning was sitting on the side of her property by the sidewalk, chained to a power pole support wire. She and her motel guests were being evicted by Landmark Bank after it foreclosed on her, leaving her hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
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Rabalais -- who held a sign with the words "Landmark Bank Is a Liar" -- says the bank not only refused to work with her but also manipulated her into losing the property. I've left a message for comment from Landmark Bank Vice President Peyton LaCaria that has yet to be returned.
Rabalais suspects her beloved inn will be snapped up by one of the pair of foreign investors -- Par Sanda and Michael Wekerle -- who have been snaring up similarly distressed beach mom-and-pop inns along Fort Lauderdale beach.
Inside, here Rabalais' story in her own words.
This video was made yesterday. BSO never did show up, but this morning, Rabalais reports that Landmark's Lacaria drove up in his Hummer, changed the locks, and evicted the remaining guests.
Rabalais plans to stay with a friend and will ultimately likely be forced into bankruptcy. Including the 25 percent "default rate" interest the bank charged her -- which alone totaled $134,144 -- and what she says are $54,000 in the bank's own attorney's fees, she owes the bank about $950,000.
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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.