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Originally published Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 12:28 PM

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Bankrupt developer Mastro in coma after falling

Bankrupt former Seattle real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro is in a coma in a Palm Springs hospital after suffering a head injury in a...

Seattle Times business reporter

Bankrupt former Seattle real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro is in a coma in a Palm Springs hospital after suffering a head injury in a fall last week, one of his attorneys said Tuesday.

Mastro, 85, fell Feb. 2 at his home in nearby Palm Desert, James Frush said. He underwent surgery Saturday to relieve pressure on his brain.

Mastro's prognosis is uncertain, Frush said: "We just don't know what's going to happen, either with Mike's condition or with the legal proceedings."

A trial is scheduled in Seattle next month over allegations by the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee that Mastro, before entering bankruptcy, engineered a series of transactions aimed at putting several assets, including his Medina waterfront mansion, out of creditors' reach.

A postponement "is certainly something that has to be discussed," Frush said.

The bankruptcy court and lawyers for other parties have been advised of Mastro's accident, he added. Mastro's wife, Linda, and other family members are with him at the hospital.

The Mastros moved to Palm Desert late last year after trustee James Rigby, who represents Mastro's creditors, took possession of the Medina home, which was later sold. A bankruptcy judge still must determine who gets the sale proceeds.

Mastro, a Seattle native, was a prolific real-estate developer and lender for 40 years before the recession undermined his empire. In July 2009 he was pushed into what probably is Western Washington's largest and most complex bankruptcy ever.

In court papers, he listed debts totaling more than $570 million. His lawyers have said there is no money to repay creditors whose debts were not secured by property or other collateral.

They include about 200 "Friends & Family" investors — mostly individuals, mostly from the Seattle area — who together had loaned Mastro more than $100 million.

Rigby has filed several lawsuits contending that Mastro, anticipating bankruptcy, schemed to hide some assets. Mastro has denied those charges.

Before his accident, it was unclear whether Mastro would testify at next month's trial. He is the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and has repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned under oath.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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