A Miami-Dade civil court judge put an end to the receivership of a former judge who billed millions to a condominium in Miami Gardens for two years of work.
During a hearing Friday, Judge Jorge Cueto ended the appointment of Jorge J. Pérez in the case of the Mirassou Condominium.
Pérez had requested on Wednesday to be discharged as a receiver, saying he had completed his job.
Now pending is a dispute over the $2.6 million bill for professional fees for the receiver and his team. Pérez was appointed in March 2015 to help the 310-unit condo during a financial crisis.
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After Friday’s hearing, a group of condo owners chased Pérez to the elevator shouting ladrón (thief), bandolero (bandit) and todo se paga en esta vida (what goes around comes around).
On Thursday, Civil Court Judge Eric Hendon, who appointed Pérez as the receiver at Mirassou Condominium, recused himself from the case to “avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
Hendon’s recusal came a few hours after he received an email from Pérez. In the message, Pérez asked Hendon “as a friend” to “impose full control of the courtroom Friday” by allowing “no circus, no cameras, no mob,” He said that the attorney for the condo owners, “the mob” and Channel 23 “have to be taught a lesson that they cannot lie.”
Read Perez’s email to Judge Hendon here.
On Wednesday, el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 published investigative reports on the Mirassou Condominium.
Pérez, as a receiver, was expected to collect payments in arrears, correct dangerous code violations, carry out repairs and settle more than $5 million in fines imposed by the county.
The receiver carried out several improvements, including fixing the elevators, which are now operating with expired permits. The condo association still owes $5 million in fines, according to Miami-Dade County records. The county has imposed a lien on the property.
In a letter to reporters, Perez’s attorney said the receiver and his team are “proud” of their work in Mirassou.
Perez charged an average $45,000 a month for the equivalent of four hours of work a day, at a rate of $525 an hour.
Attorney Guillermo Mancebo, who represents the condo board, said they plan to contest in court the professional fees charged by Pérez and his team.
“Justice should not be so expensive,” Mancebo said.
At the hearing Friday, Pérez and his attorney, Paul Breitner, told Cueto that Hendon had already approved the bills because no one objected to the fees. But several Mirassou owners said that they didn't know they had the right to object to the fees, or that they had to do it by presenting a motion to the court. They also said that they did not know information about Pérez’s fees is available on the court’s Web page.
“We want this new judge to understand us and order fair fees,” said owner Mónica Posada. “Don’t make us pay all that money.”
Cueto said he would like to review the bills that Pérez regularly filed with the court and were approved by Hendon.
“I’m not going to approve payments today,” said Cueto, who asked Pérez if the costs could be negotiated.
Pérez had asked Hendon in March to authorize him to obtain a $2 million loan from TotalBank to pay professional fees. The loan would be paid off by Mirassou owners in seven years, through a special assessment fee added to their monthly maintenance fees.
“What worries me the most now is that he leaves and we don’t know how much debt he leaves us, or how much money we have in the bank,” said Mirassou owner Monica Posada.