Education

Dade Medical College owner selling his $2 million home

Ernesto Perez’s Coral Gables home.
Ernesto Perez’s Coral Gables home. Zillow website

Former Dade Medical College owner Ernesto Perez is selling his luxurious Coral Gables house. Asking price is $2.15 million.

The two-story Spanish-style home has five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, and boasts “Desert Bloom marble floors from Dubai,” according to the sales listing on the Zillow real estate website.

The photos of the 5,291 square-foot home offer a window into how Perez’s for-profit college empire provided a comfortable lifestyle. The master bedroom has a skylight feature, and the room appears to be roughly the size of a studio apartment.

Other amenities: a “stunning gourmet kitchen with Turkish stone counters,” a large pool/jacuzzi, and a “unique Zen Garden.”

Perez’s college suddenly shut down on Oct. 30, after the U.S. Department of Education placed the school under heightened financial scrutiny. For years, some Dade Medical students had complained that the college enrolled them with false promises and failed to deliver a quality education. At the Hollywood campus, only 13 percent of nursing graduates last year passed the state’s required license exam.

Perez did not answer his cell phone Friday, nor respond to a text message from the Herald.

Fueled by government money, Dade Medical grew to six campuses, and its smaller affiliate school, the University of Southernmost Florida, operated two additional campuses. Nearly 90 percent of the company’s revenues came from taxpayer-funded Pell grants and federal loans — Dade Medical received more than $100 million in these funds during the past three years.

The abrupt closure left roughly 2,000 students stranded, and many of the college’s 400 employees are owed back pay. Some ex-employees have already filed lawsuits to recover money from Perez and Dade Medical.

Last month, Dade Medical filed a court petition to sell its assets — beginning a process that could lead to paying some of the money owed to creditors and ex-employees. Students can also file claims, but they’ll only get paid after secured creditors, government agencies and ex-employees.

Perez’s $2 million home is largely exempt from any claims by employees or students, said Carlos Sardi, a Coral Gables bankruptcy attorney representing some former employees. Perez and his wife list the property as their home and claim a homestead exemption, and Sardi said state law protects homesteaded properties from being attacked by creditors and lawsuit judgments.

The two-story Spanish-style home has five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, and boasts ‘Desert Bloom marble floors from Dubai,’ according to the sales listing on the Zillow real estate website.

Should the house sell, Sardi said any money Perez receives would still be protected — so long as he spends it on another homestead property.

Perez and his wife are also listed as owners of another, smaller Coral Gables home, valued at $384,043, according to county records. That property, too, is largely protected, Sardi said, because it is in both Perez’s and his wife’s name.

A recent Miami Herald investigation, Higher-Ed Hustle, showed how Florida’s for-profit colleges used political connections to get laws passed, which then helped their enrollments grow. Dade Medical gave jobs or contract work to nearly a dozen elected officials, including Hialeah state Sen. Rene Garcia, Miami Gardens state Sen. Oscar Braynon II, and Miami state Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

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