Real Estate News

Robert Zangrillo steps away from Little Haiti project after college scam indictment

Robert Zangrillo and Tony Cho stand at their Magic City Sculpture Garden in November 2016 while announcing their new project in Little Haiti.
Robert Zangrillo and Tony Cho stand at their Magic City Sculpture Garden in November 2016 while announcing their new project in Little Haiti.

Robert Zangrillo, the CEO of the Miami-based investment firm Dragon Global and one of the main investors in the Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti, is stepping away from the project to tend to his legal woes.

Dragon Global’s investment in the Magic City project — which constitutes 35 percent of the development’s overall $1 billion budget — will be managed by another representative of the company.

Neil Fairman, chairman of Plaza Equity Partners, one of the developers of the Magic City Innovation District, leads a tour of the site of the mixed-use development in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

Zangrillo was one of dozens of people indicted on March 15 by federal prosecutors on charges that they participated in a nationwide scam in which they paid bribes to get their children accepted into prestigious universities such as Yale and Stanford.

Zangrillo was charged with paying $50,000 to the University of Southern California Women’s Athletics in 2018 for his daughter Amber to be recruited by the school’s crew team, even though she had never rowed competitively.

He was also charged with making another payment of $200,000 to the nonprofit college prep business Key Worldwide Foundation. That group arranged for someone to secretly take classes on behalf of Amber to improve her grade point average.

USC had denied Amber’s college application in 2017, but she was granted admission in July 2018, according to a post on her Facebook page.

Miami’s commissioners and mayor were informed Wednesday afternoon of Zangrillo’s departure from his position at MCD Dragon LLC, the division of Dragon Global participating in the Little Haiti project, in a letter from Magic City. The statement also announces Zangrillo’s replacement.

“We are hereby notifying you that effective March 26, 2019, Mr. Zangrillo has been removed as the manager of MCD Dragon and replaced with Mr. Zachary Annson Vella,” reads the letter from MCD Dragon. “Mr. Vella is now (and going forward will be) the representative of MCD Dragon with respect to our investment in MCD Miami, and ultimately, the Project.”

Thursday morning, Zangrillo’s criminal attorneys filed a motion in the Massachusetts District Court requesting that Zangrillo, who has surrendered his passport, be allowed to travel to Montreal to attend a “strategic offsite meeting” with the other Magic City developers.

The motion was a direct contradiction to Wednesday’s claim that Zangrillo has relinquished his personal participation in the project. But Zangrillo told the Herald through a representative that the motion was filed in error and will be withdrawn.

The Miami-based Plaza Equity Partners will continue to be the managing partner of the project. The other major partner in the project is Tony Cho, founder and CEO of Metro 1.

On Thursday, the Miami Commission will hear a proposal by the Magic City developers to create a Little Haiti Revitalization Trust that will allocate $31 million to be used for community improvements and affordable and workforce housing. The trust would be overseen by a five-member committee led by Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who represents the Little Haiti district.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Rene Rodriguez has worked at the Miami Herald in a variety of roles since 1989. He currently writes for the business desk.


  Comments