To steal the words of Queen Elizabeth, 2017 will go down as an “annus horribilis” for the family of U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In the wake of Wasserman Schultz’s roasting in Democratic Party stalwart Donna Brazile’s book and the Weston politician’s failure to fire a tech aide who was under FBI investigation, her husband is now accused of trying to rip off an elderly homeowner, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Fort Lauderdale.
Broward banker Steve Schultz, Wasserman-Schultz’s husband of 26 years, allegedly tried to have 70-year-old investor Frank DiMaria hand over the deed of his troubled $4 million commercial property in Pompano Beach to Schultz personally, according to the complaint.
Because DiMaria was having troubles reimbursing credit lines and mortgages issued by Schultz’s now-defunct Community Bank of Broward, the bank would eventually launch the foreclosure of DiMaria’s property on the heavily traveled Atlantic Boulevard beachfront area.
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But before then, DiMaria now says, Schultz tried to intimidate him into surrendering his property to him without the proper foreclosure proceedings in a court of law.
“Mr. Schultz called Mr. DiMaria and proposed that he sign the Pompano Beach property over to Mr. Schultz personally,” the lawsuit reads. “Mr. DiMaria replied by stating, ‘Are you out of your mind?’
“Mr. Schultz replied by stating ‘no’ and further stating something to the effect of ‘no matter how big a lawyer you get or how many, I will destroy you and them and you know I have the power to do it.”
In a phone interview, Schultz said DiMaria knows he is married to Wasserman Schultz and is using that fact for effect.
“Mr. DiMaria knows I’m married to Debbie, so he might believe in some big conspiracy theory involving me and Debbie,” Schultz said. “But that’s not the case. I couldn’t personally seize his property even if I wanted to.
“He is a crazy old guy who cost the bank a lot of money. Eventually, we had to sell his mortgage to another party at a $200,000 loss.”
Schultz blamed DiMaria’s heavy Italian accent and lack of proficiency in English for the “misunderstanding.”
And he questioned DiMaria’s lack of business sense, saying that DiMaria overpaid for the 17,000-square-foot strip mall.
And soon after DiMaria’s purchase, Schultz said, road work in front of the property caused several tenants to lose business and stop payment on their leases.
“What is definitely possible is that someone at the bank asked Mr. DiMaria to sign over the property without a costly court fight. A full-fledged foreclosure battle costs money not only to the bank but to the landowner as well.
“But I never asked that he deed the property to me. Besides, I’m not interested in commercial properties.”
Wayne Atkins, DiMaria’s Miami-based lawyer, said the case was in its infancy and declined comment.
Steve and Debbie have been married since 1991. They live in a $700,000 home in Weston and have three children.
Schultz’s family is no stranger to controversy.
A U.S. Congresswoman since 2005, Wasserman Schultz resigned her position as head of the DNC during the latest presidential campaign after leaked party emails showed she favored the candidacy of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders’ as party activists booed her off the stage of the Democratic Convention.
In her recently released book, Hacks, Brazile singled out Wasserman Schultz for her lack of leadership in agreeing to hand over control of the party to Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
And earlier this year, Wasserman Schultz refused to fire Imran Awan, an IT staffer under federal investigation for an alleged equipment and data scam in the U.S. House.
She finally got rid of him July 25, one day after authorities arrested him when he tried to leave for Pakistan after wiring himself $283,000 there.