While former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner awaited his fate in a 2012 case involving campaign violations and charges of unlawful compensation, he was busy with another development project.
Prosecutors say he received $150,000 from a former associate for a proposed development in North Miami that was never built. Instead, Rosner, owner of a construction company, kept most of the money for himself, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office says.
Rosner, 57, was booked into jail Tuesday morning on charges stemming from his use of the investor’s money. He faces four counts including securities fraud during the sale of an investment, sale of an unregulated security, a security sale by an unregistered person and grand theft. Tuesday evening, he was still being held, with bail set at $20,000.
Investigators discovered the transactions while examining Rosner’s finances in connection with a 2012 case in which the former mayor was arrested on charges related to his campaign spending. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful compensation, was ordered to serve three years probation and was banned from seeking public office. Rosner served as a North Miami Beach commissioner for six years and as mayor for two, before losing his reelection bid in 2011.
In the latest case, prosecutors said that Rosner convinced David Rosenbaum in 2012 to invest $150,000 in a development called Retail 135. The plan was to develop 2.2 acres along Northeast 135th Street and First Court. An investment package said Rosner’s goal was to raise $3 million from 10 investors.
Rosner promised Rosenbaum shares in the development and a return on his investment but Rosner ended up spending most of the money on paying off credit card debt, mortgage payments, cable and cell phone bills and groceries, the state attorney said.
Rosner, according to prosecutors, purchased several money orders with cash at various banks, then deposited the money into his own bank account or into his company, SIZ Construction.
“Mr. Rosner is shocked that the state attorney’s office would be manipulated to collect a disputed civil debt,” said Ben Kuehne, Rosner’s attorney. “The investor was fully aware of the risk in this project, fully participated in the project, is owed no money yet has sued Mr. Rosner unsuccessfully and has now gotten the state attorney’s office to act as his private lawyer.”
Between June 2012 and January 2013 Rosner paid himself $86,700 and his construction company $59,700. By December 2012, only $350 was left of Rosenbaum’s money. Rosner had spent only $22,800 on the project.
The project was never built and Rosenbaum — the only investor — was never repaid. He sued in circuit court in 2014 and that case remains open.
“Florida’s securities statutes exist to protect investors from fraud,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “Good faith, good intentions and grand plans mean little when invested monies are transformed into credit card and mortgage payments.”
Rosner is married to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel but prosecutors haven’t implicated her, and she told investigators that she was unaware of the transactions.
Zabel shares a bank account with Rosner and she was a general partner and registered agent for Retail 135 but by December 2012 her name was removed from the company.
When he spoke with investigators, Rosenbaum, a local doctor, said that even though he never met Zabel “the fact that a sitting judge was the general partner gave him great confidence in the project.”
The law firm Markus/Moss represents Zabel and released a statement in support of Rosner.
“Judge Zabel stands by her husband against this baseless and very old civil dispute, which never should have been brought criminally,” the statement read.
For Rosner it’s another scandal.
In September 2012 he was arrested and faced nine felony and misdemeanor charges including unlawful compensation for official behavior, grand theft and falsely reporting campaign expenses. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge of unlawful compensation.
The arrest came after a 2011 complaint to the Miami-Dade ethics commission over bus bench ads that were placed around North Miami Beach as Rosner sought reelection.
The ads displayed the former mayor’s photo and the greeting, “Happy Holidays from Mayor Myron Rosner.” He hired R&D Printing and Martin Outdoor Media, who had contracted with the city, to do the ads. They were set to run from Dec. 15, 2010 to Jan. 15, 2011 but were actually in place until Feb. 1.
He paid $4,500 for the ads but then told Scott Martin, director of Martin Outdoor Media, to contribute $4,500 to his political action committee, according to the state attorney’s office. The ethics complaint argued that this allowed Rosner to get free advertising.