CHARLESTON — The parent company of the small Virginia firm that failed to fulfill a $55 million no-bid contract to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with 10 million protective masks owes more than $6.4 million to the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, according to bankruptcy court filings.
James V. Punelli and Raymond C. Jones, the owners of Panthera Worldwide LLC of Leesburg, Virginia, the company that was awarded the contract to deliver the N95 masks, are also listed as the owners of Panthera Worldwide’s parent firm, Panthera Enterprises LLC, also of Leesburg, according to bankruptcy records.
In 2013, the WVEDA made a $5 million, 15-year, property-secured loan to Panthera Enterprises to help the firm — then known as TenX Group LLC — buy a 691-acre tract near Old Fields in Hardy County and develop it into a tactical training center for use by military and security groups. The property is located about two hours away from Washington, D.C.
The following year, the WVEDA issued a second loan of more than $1.8 million to the firm, allowing it to buy an adjacent 58-acre tract of land, according to bankruptcy court records.
Eight live-fire shooting ranges, a demolitions range and a 6,000-square-foot live-fire “shoot house” were built on the site, along with a mock village with additional shooting venues, according to the training center’s website. Other developments at the Old Fields site included a 1.5-mile paved track and a 2.6-mile unimproved road course for tactical driving training, a helicopter pad, a classroom and food service buildings.
Training center clients have included units from the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. State Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, state and municipal law enforcement agencies, and private security contractors, according to the website.
According to WVEDA bankruptcy court filings, Panthera Enterprises failed to make several loan payments in 2015, made no payments on either of the two state loans during 2016, and made only three of nine payments called for under a modified payment agreement the company signed in 2017.
In May 2018, the WVEDA began foreclosure proceedings to recover the principal and interest from the loans it maintains it is owed, now set at about $6.4 million. After more than a year of continued legal wrangling, a foreclosure auction was scheduled for Sept. 16, 2019. Three days before that date, Panthera Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Wheeling.
The Old Fields property is believed to be the primary asset held by Panthera Enterprises, which listed estimated liabilities of $10 million to $50 million owed to 50 to 99 creditors on its Chapter 11 filing. The case remains unresolved, with hearings scheduled to continue into the summer.