Real Estate News

Citi Bike Miami founder paid property tax for Mexican first lady’s condo

In this 2014 file photo, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto and first lady Angélica Rivera arrive at Brisbane Airport ahead of the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.
In this 2014 file photo, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto and first lady Angélica Rivera arrive at Brisbane Airport ahead of the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia. AP

The founder of a popular South Florida bike-sharing company paid nearly $30,000 in property taxes for a Key Biscayne condo owned by Mexico’s first lady, according to public records.

Ricardo Pierdant owns DecoBike, which runs the Citi Bike programs in Miami and Miami Beach. He didn’t respond to messages and it’s not clear why he paid a year’s worth of taxes for the spacious, three-bedroom unit.

$29,703.82Property taxes levied on Mexican first lady’s condo in 2014

The unusual arrangement highlights how South Florida’s opaque real estate market is shaped by unseen global forces.

Local condos and mansions have become a safety deposit box for cash from overseas, attracting the attention of federal regulators. Some of that money comes from people linked to corruption, as shown in the massive leak of offshore corporate documents known as the Panama Papers. The Miami Herald previously reported on Mexican government officials investing in local properties, including a former bureaucrat in the country’s powerful teacher’s union.

In 2005, Angélica Rivera, a former telenovela star and wife of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, paid $1.7 million for a 3,000-square-foot condo at Ocean Club, a gated waterfront community on Key Biscayne. Rivera, who received a $1.3 million mortgage from Espirito Santo Bank, set up a Florida holding company to own the unit and pay property taxes. But in 2014, a different company, Biscayne Ocean Holdings, paid an annual $29,703.82 tax bill on the unit, Miami-Dade County records show.

Biscayne Ocean Holdings lists Pierdant as its manager. (The next year, Rivera’s company resumed paying the taxes.)

Pierdant’s company also owns a unit one floor up from Rivera’s. She appears to be using that $2 million condo for herself, according to the Guardian.

In a statement published online, the president’s office criticized the Guardian story and said Pierdant was not a government contractor. It did not address the question of why his company paid the tax for the first lady’s condo.

$1.7 millionPrice paid by Mexico’s first lady for Key Biscayne condo in 2005

The charismatic Peña Nieto swept into office in 2012 promising reform. But his administration has been troubled by scandals, including the revelation that a prominent government contractor provided the first lady with a $7 million luxury mansion in Mexico City. Rivera said she repaid the contractor from her earnings as an actress.

Since taking office, the president’s approval rating has fallen from 56 percent to 29 percent in June, according to Bloomberg.

DecoBike launched in Miami Beach in 2011 as a private vendor working with the city. It was modeled on successful programs in Paris, Barcelona and Montreal. Users can rent bikes by the hour and day.

In 2014, DecoBike expanded to Miami, won a corporate sponsorship from Citibank — the underwriter of New York City’s well-known bike-sharing program — and rebranded its South Florida programs as Citi Bike Miami. The company also operates in Surfside, Bay Harbor Islands and San Diego, according to its website.

A previous version of this story referenced a report in the Guardian, which was later retracted.

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas