Officials are still not revealing much about what prompted the FBI and IRS to search the West Side offices of St. Paul businessman Jerry Trooien's JLT Group Inc Thursday.
The raid, which was searching for evidence of a fraud scheme, comes several months after Trooien declared bankruptcy. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars to creditors across a range of business activities including aviation and commercial real estate.
People and agencies who could shed light on what's going on -- his attorney, the U.S. Attorney's office, various bankruptcy attorneys -- did not return calls in time for this report.
Trooien grew up on St. Paul's East Side, and played football, hockey and baseball at Harding High. He is described by friends as charismatic, and a classic hometown booster. Critics call him stubborn and litigious.
St. Paul commercial real estate broker John Mannillo has known Trooien through business dealings for years. He said the real estate crash and Trooien's business debt caused problems that led to bankruptcy.
"Many people who were extended before the recession were the quickest to start to fall, and I think Jerry had that problem," said Mannillo.
Commercial real estate specialists describe Trooien as a large St. Paul property holder, but medium in size when placed in the overall Twin Cities real estate picture.
Trooien owns at least 18 buildings around the Twin Cities and several aircraft, most sitting in hangars at Holman Field in St. Paul. His group is the JLT Group, Inc, a commercial real estate management company. His prior businesses range from private jet companies to an off-airport parking company.
Trooien's bankruptcy filing records show his assets total about $6.5 million. In contrast, claims against him in his bankruptcy petition total more than $284 million.
The largest claim is for $58 million from Dougherty Funding, an investment banking firm with a Minneapolis office. Second in line is Bank of America with a $48 million claim.
One of Trooien's boldest ventures was "The Bridges of St. Paul." He wanted the city to join him in developing the $1.5 billion condominium, office and retail complex across the Mississippi river from downtown on St. Paul's West Side.
But St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune and others opposed the idea on a range of issues including cost and size.
"Our preference was to have things step up as they move back along the river so you could retain that feel of the river gorge," said Thune.
Negotiations for compromise and for financing failed in 2007.
Thune said Trooien's intensity infuses his business dealings. When describing Trooien's personal style, Thune pointed to his experience playing hockey at a professional level in Austria.
"He's very hardnosed, and he leads with his chin and he believes passionately in what he believes in," said Thune.
Lifelong friend Harold Strassner, a retired St. Paul fire fighter who owns an airport parking business, described Trooien as "possibly the smartest person I've ever run across."
Strassner said few people know of Trooien's support for the St. Paul public schools in a levy referendum campaign.
"He literally spent millions of his own money out his pocket to help support the schools in our town."
Trooien no longer appears to have millions.
And because there's no comment from the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's office, his latest set of problems stemming from the search of his St. Paul office for now remain unknown.