Real Estate News

Famed Miami real estate developer feels ‘vindicated’ after judge throws out lawsuit

A Miami-Dade judge ruled in favor of Miami real estate developer Edgardo Defortuna on Monday, tossing out a lawsuit that accused him of fraud.
A Miami-Dade judge ruled in favor of Miami real estate developer Edgardo Defortuna on Monday, tossing out a lawsuit that accused him of fraud. Miami Herald file

A Miami-Dade Circuit Judge on Monday summarily dismissed a lawsuit against real estate developer Edgardo Defortuna that accused him of defrauding two lenders and one investor in his Jade Ocean luxury condo tower at 17121 Collins Avenue.

Judge William Thomas ruled that the plaintiffs — Florida Beach Investment, Spartan Capital and Capital Building — had no evidence to support their claims that Defortuna and his company Fortune International Group misled them about their investment in the project.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2013, argued that Defortuna had declared a loss of $63 million in the project, but actually made a profit of $100 million and siphoned most of that money into his own companies.

But an audit by the accounting firm HLB Gravier completed in 2011 confirmed Defortuna’s claim. The plaintiffs had accused HLB Gravier of negligence.

“I feel vindicated by the judge because this suit was totally baseless,” Defortuna said. “I was shocked by the lies and allegations these people were making. I spent three times more money fighting this lawsuit than the amount they were asking, because I could not tolerate this kind of accusation.”

Judge Thomas ruled on Monday that there was no evidence to support a claim by Florida Beach that they were misled by Fortune Ocean to invest $500,000 in the Jade project. The judge also ruled there was no evidence of breach of contract by Fortune.

In a previous ruling, the judge granted a request by Spartan and Capital to be paid back their $250,000 loans plus 18 percent interest and attorney fees.

The plaintiffs had asked for triple the amount of their investments in damages and accrued interest.

“All the allegations of any fraud or misconduct have been established as false,” said Susan Raffanello, partner at the Coffey Burlington law firm who represents Defortuna. “Fortune will be seeking its attorneys’ fees and costs for having to fight this six-year meritless litigation.”

Jennifer Recine, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the suit, said she plans to appeal Monday’s decision that barred her from amending the complaint, which was prepared by previous counsel.

“The Court dismissed Florida Beach’s breach of contract claim based solely on a pleading technicality, and not on the merits of the underlying allegations of self-dealing by Mr. Defortuna,” she said.

Two other lawsuits against Defortuna are still pending. Another Jade Ocean lender, Iver Interest and Trade, claims Defortuna stopped payments on a $2 million loan and still owes $1.5 million plus interest. A judge will rule in January on a request by the law firm of Coffey Burlington to dismiss the case, claiming the lender waited too long to sue and legal time limitations have expired.

Another lawsuit, scheduled for trial in February, claims Defortuna and Manuel Grosskopf, principal for the Chateau Group, resorted to unseemly tactics to block the sale of an old condo building in Sunny Isles in order to protect the beach and ocean views of the tenants of their 52-story Ritz-Carlton tower.

Defortuna said he feels confident the remaining lawsuits also will be dismissed.

“This is not about money for me: It’s about my integrity,” he said. “I’m concerned about my legacy and my children hearing from their peers at school that their father is shady. Today’s ruling vindicates everything that I’ve been working and fighting for over the last 30 years of my career.”

Rene Rodriguez has worked at the Miami Herald in a variety of roles since 1989. He currently writes for the business desk covering real estate and the city’s affordability crisis.


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