South Florida

Fake engineer accused of trying to bilk millions from Homestead sets up shop in Las Vegas

A rendering of Bleutech Park in greater Las Vegas, Nevada. Above is Janet Legrand’s booking photo in Miami-Dade.
A rendering of Bleutech Park in greater Las Vegas, Nevada. Above is Janet Legrand’s booking photo in Miami-Dade. Corrections

About two years ago, Janet LeGrand — also known by her maiden name, Janet Garcia — used what Homestead police called a fake engineering firm and a falsified résumé to try to dupe the city into awarding her firm a $33.3 million construction contract.

LeGrand was arrested on a charge of scheming to defraud, and then again for wage theft after failing to pay dozens of employees a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars. She eventually posted bail and relocated.

The Miami-Dade charges — set for trial next month — didn’t stop LeGrand from setting up shop again, this time in greater Las Vegas. LeGrand is spearheading a project that’s vastly larger than Homestead’s.

“We are working on a [$7.5 billion] project that will blow your mind,” Bleutech Park’s website says. A brochure described it as “avant-garde, interactive and futuristic.”

The company, which state records show was registered under LeGrand’s husband, Pascal, and their longtime friend, Richard Arthur, in Delaware in June 2018, says the mixed-use development — including workforce housing, offices, retail space, luxury residential units, a hotel and entertainment space — will be like a “mini city,” but featuring buildings that are fully powered by solar, wind, water and kinetic energy.

When a Florida man saw an article about the Las Vegas project — and noted on Facebook that LeGrand had a troubled past in Miami-Dade — he received a voicemail offering him $5,000 to delete his comments and keep his mouth shut.

There is no indication the Las Vegas project involves public money.

The company says it will “be the first city in the world to boast a digital revolution in motion” with autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, and “supertrees” — fake palm trees that will serve as solar panels.

Bleutech is a subsidiary of Bleu Network, the engineering firm that tried to secure a $33 million public-private partnership to oversee a cornerstone redevelopment in Homestead.

Side by side are the logos for Bleutech Park and Bleu Network.

LeGrand, now 50, was a bidder for Homestead Station, a project aimed at reviving the city’s urban core with an upscale movie theater, a bowling alley, shops, restaurants, a parking garage and a transit center. LeGrand lost the bid after she was ranked third out of three proposals. LeGrand later filed a protest and a lawsuit against the city, saying the process wasn’t done fairly.

Law enforcement records allege that LeGrand lied by claiming she had access to billions of dollars in investment capital. Cops also said she pretended to be a financial partner in a $942 million Port of Miami Tunnel project as well as a $483 million development project in Ohio.

Her website depicted multiple construction projects, implying that the Bleu Network built tunnels, bridges and high-speed rail systems around the world. But all were untrue, investigators said. The businesswoman falsely portrayed herself as a licensed civil engineer, lied about graduating from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and about having offices in Spain, Argentina and Brickell, according to an arrest warrant. Court records show Miami-Dade County fielded a series of complaints from former Bleu employees who say they were not paid their wages and moving expenses.

At a news conference late last month, Melvin Green, co-owner of KME Architects, a Las Vegas-based firm recruited by LeGrand to design the project, discussed his company’s role.

“Janet, I just want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to be the architects of record,” Green said. “We are excited because of your vision and your foresight for bringing this project to Las Vegas.”

Mike Grigsby, business development manager for Cisco Systems, a national IT company and partner of Bleutech Park, echoed Green: “Technology will allow us to empower, not only one another, but to empower more creativity and empower the vision for our future. As I had a chance to really speak with Janet over the year, and getting to know this project, there is a visionary component to this that I don’t think we have seen in a long time, if we’ve seen it at all.”

Both Cisco and KME Architects referred all questions regarding LeGrand and Bleutech to Tom Letizia, a Bluetech spokesman.

“You have to talk to him, I can’t talk to you about anything. Thank you, bye now,” Green said before hanging up on a reporter Tuesday. Letizia did not respond to emails and phone calls from the Miami Herald Monday and Tuesday. When the Miami Herald called Bleutech’s virtual office and asked for Janet LeGrand, a secretary forwarded a reporter to her voicemail.

Arthur, the company’s CFO, did speak to the Herald.

“[Bleutech Park] is a massive project that I really cannot expand on at this time,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The issues that were brought up here locally in South Florida with Bleu Network are completely irrelevant to Bleutech Park in our opinion.”

He continued: “The project in Las Vegas is very different, of course, than what we had been planned for South Florida. Hopefully it will become iconic.”

Janet LeGrand

Records obtained by the Herald chronicle LeGrand’s efforts to start anew. Internal documents detail how LeGrand began soliciting investors and potential contractors as early as January. In an email, LeGrand’s husband, Pascal LeGrand, sought to have a South Florida businessman help him find investors.

“We have been working diligently for some time now to bring forth the most amazing project [Bleutech Park], positioned in the most spectacular place, Las Vegas, Nevada,” Pascal LeGrand wrote in an email dated Jan. 8.

In a professional service agreement between Bleutech Park Properties Inc. and Strategies 360, a national communications firm, LeGrand, who signed as Janet Garcia and CEO of Bleutech Park, agreed to pay the firm $120,000 in exchange for public relations services before local and state governments.

Strategies 360 told the Herald Tuesday it had canceled the contract with LeGrand, which was set to begin in April, before the start date but declined to comment on why it changed course. Neither LeGrand nor her husband returned the Herald’s calls Monday or Tuesday.

Lisa Hauger, a Realtor based in Nevada, told the Herald Monday she remembers when Janet LeGrand contacted her in 2018. She was looking to lease office space in Las Vegas.

Hauger didn’t like the looks of it. “That’s when I Googled her. I called police down in Florida and they told me to run, so I did,” Hauger said.

In a letter sent to Hauger, Arthur, chief financial officer for both Bleutech and Bleu Network, said Bleutech “is a wholly owned subsidiary” of Bleu Network Corporation. Both companies have the same logo and masthead on email correspondences. The company says it works out of a virtual shared workspace on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 4.07.43 PM.png
A rendering of Bleutech Park in greater Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bleutech has not said exactly where the “smart city” will be built, despite a projected groundbreaking in December. Leaders also have refused to identify who the investors are.

“They would not be building in the city of Las Vegas, but technically in unincorporated Clark County,” said Erik Pappa, a Clark County spokesman. “As of today, no applications have been submitted for consideration by the county. In order to build what they are planning, they would need planning approvals and would need to have the appropriate zoning and land use.”

Some local leaders have been vocal in their support for LeGrand’s project, including Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft and Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell.

“The Clark County Fire Department is honored to be partners with Bleutech Park,” Cassell told a local TV station, NBC2. “We look forward to the arrival of this modern community and are excited about the opportunities before us.”

Joao Mello, a Plantation businessman, saw an article about the Clark County project and posted a Facebook comment calling it a “scam,” linking to the Herald’s past coverage.

By Sunday, Bleutech deactivated its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. A few hours later, Mello was flooded by voicemails and texts from a man who identified himself as Richard Arthur, Bleutech’s CFO, offering him $5,000 in exchange for his silence, Mello said.

“You would agree to refrain from any future communication about Bleu Network or any third party,” according to one voicemail, heard and obtained by the Herald.

“As I indicate, I am in a position to set up a severance agreement with you, to pay you $5,000 in order to finalize it...Let’s get it done. I’d like to get the attorneys started on a formal agreement. As I indicated, I can have the payment to you very, very quickly.”

The Miami Herald called the number that left the voicemail. A man who said he was Richard Arthur answered the phone and fielded questions about the project — until he was asked about the $5,000 offer left on the voicemail.

“I am now terminating this conversation,” he said.

Monique O. Madan covers immigration and enterprise; she previously covered breaking news and local government. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She is currently a Reveal Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. She graduated from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston. A note to tipsters: If you want to send Monique confidential information, her email and mailbox are open. The address is 3511 NW 91st Ave, Doral, FL 33172. You can also direct message her on social media and she’ll provide encrypted Signal details.