Ibes Gomez, a notorious Miami swindler already facing trial for kiting bad checks for luxury suites at Miami Heat NBA Finals games, is in hot water again.
This time, prosecutors say he shelled out $3,000 in phantom money to “adopt” a white Bengal tiger cub named Esha.
The bad checks paid to a private zoo, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, entitled him and his young daughter up to 50 annual visits to the South Miami-Dade park. Instead, the checks landed Gomez in jail.
He was charged this week with grand theft and issuing worthless checks. A Miami-Dade judge on Friday ordered Gomez jailed for violating the terms of his bail by picking up a new criminal charge.
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“He wanted his daughter to pet a tiger,” defense attorney Ted Mastos protested. “This was a donation.”
Gomez pleaded to not be jailed, but acknowledged wrongdoing. “I made a mistake, with my daughter, and everything else,” he said in a stammering voice.
The 35-year-old businessman has a long history of writing worthless checks, a habit his lawyer chalked up to a gambling addiction. Gomez has been in and out of jail for years for passing checks on purchases of everything from plane tickets to seats to watch the Miami Dolphins.
He was arrested in July 2014 on charges of passing bad checks to buy new tires. For now, he is facing five criminal cases — including for stiffing the Miami Heat.
“I feel like it’s a broken record,” prosecutor Manny Reboso told Circuit Judge Stacy Glick. “He keeps on doing it and doing it. He just keeps on cutting bad checks.”
It was while he was out on bond in September that Gomez took his daughter for a birthday party at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, a five-acre private zoo that offers “intimate guided wildlife tours” to see exotic lions, tigers, monkeys, reptiles and even a camel.
For the $3,000, Gomez’s daughter got the park visits and a certificate declaring her a “zoo parent.”
“He was trying to be a good parent. But you have to be able to afford it,” Mastos said. “Maybe he should have just put food coloring and stripes on a house cat and called it a tiger.”