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Here’s Why You Should Ask Your Lawyer for a Lie Detector and Breath Test

Once again, the disparity in sanctions by the Florida Bar Disciplinary cases appears dependent on who you know and/or your wealth.

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LIF is Super Concerned About the Disparity in Sanctions in this Stacked January List

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 30 attorneys, disbarring six, suspending 11, admonishing two, reprimanding six, and revoking the licenses of five. One attorney was placed on probation.

JAN 3, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIF: MAR 6, 2022

ATTORNEY DOUGLAS JAMES BARNARD OF ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

Douglas James Barnard, 76 4th St. N., Unit 1023, St. Petersburg, disbarred effective immediately following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1992)

Barnard became CLE delinquent and ineligible to practice law in October 2019.

Thereafter, he accepted legal fees and engaged in the practice of law in multiple clients’ matters while suspended due to CLE delinquency.

In at least one client matter, Barnard failed to perform the legal services he was hired to complete, which caused harm to a client.

Barnard also failed to reasonably communicate with the client.

Barnard did not respond to official Bar inquiries in at least two matters, and did not file an Answer to the Bar’s complaint.

(Case No: SC21-308)

LAWYER PERRY CAMERON OF ROCKLEDGE, FLORIDA

Perry L. Cameron, Jr., 3810 Murrell Rd., Suite 317, Rockledge, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective 30 days following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2011)

Cameron misappropriated trust funds by transferring settlement funds, to which he was not entitled, to his operating account and a personal account.

Cameron also used settlement funds to pay liabilities in unrelated client matters.

(Case No: SC21-1563)

FORMER TAMPA JUDGE J. KEVIN CAREY

John Kevin Carey, 3186 Bayshore Oaks Dr., Tampa, suspended for 90 days and required ethics school, Professionalism Workshop, and FLA evaluation effective 30 days following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1983)

Carey engaged in a sexual relationship with a client while representing the client in multiple lawsuits, including the client’s dissolution of marriage.

The sexual relationship became a contentious issue during the litigation, which negatively affected the proceedings, including depositions, hearings, and court filings.

Carey was also unprofessional in his communications with opposing counsel and the opposing party.

(Case No: SC21-1673)

ATTORNEY BOB COOK OF TEQUESTA, FLORIDA

Robert B. Cook, P.O. Box 3598, Tequesta, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1971)

Cook did not appear at court hearings to represent clients in two separate foreclosure cases.

In one matter, an associate attorney in Cook’s office was handling the case and left on an emergency medical leave.

A hearing was not calendared and sufficient efforts were not made by Cook to make certain all pending matters were covered.

A final judgment was entered, but later set aside and Cook continued to represent the client.

In the other matter, Cook filed a motion to withdraw, wrongly believing an order was entered relieving him of responsibility in the case, and did not appear when a final judgment was entered.

The final judgment was set aside and Cook continued to represent the client.

(Case No: SC21-1687)

ATTORNEY TIMMY COX OF PLANTATION, FLORIDA

Timmy W. Cox, Sr., 7401 S.W. 16th St., Plantation, suspended for one year effective 45 days following a November 10, court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2014)

Cox conducted himself in a disrespectful manner toward a judge in sidebar and in open court during a case.

In an adoption case, Cox demonstrated incompetence and a lack of decorum during a petition hearing.

The petition was legally insufficient on its face and Cox failed to advise the mother she was agreeing to irrevocably surrender her parental rights.

In another case, Cox failed to appear at a properly noticed hearing.

(Case No: SC20-1639)

THIEVIN’ LAWYER TOM CRAFT JR OF TEQUESTA, FLORIDA

Thomas Jackson Craft, Jr., P.O. Box 4143, Tequesta, disciplinary revocation effective immediately following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1991)

Craft pled guilty plea to the felony of securities fraud in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

(Case No: SC21-1565)

ATTORNEY CONSTANCE DANIELS OF BRANDON, FLORIDA

Constance Daniels, P.O. Box 6219, Brandon, admonishment in writing and directed to attend Ethics School effective immediately following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1995)

Daniels failed to act with reasonable diligence and failed to communicate with her client in connection with a dissolution of marriage action.

Daniels also failed to timely respond to the Bar’s formal complaint.

(Case No: SC21-683)

ATTORNEY CESAR DOMINGUEZ, CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA IS FINALLY DISBARRED

Cesar J. Dominguez, 2000 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Suite 628, Coral Gables, disbarred effective 30 days following a November 23 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1999)

Dominguez, in the first matter, repeatedly represented to the trial court and parties involved that he would not disburse the escrow funds during the pendency of the litigation and that the funds remained in trust.

However, Dominguez had already disbursed the funds to his client at the time he made the representations.

Dominguez repaid the funds to the complainant after the Bar grievance was filed.

In the second matter, Dominguez sent two separate escrow receipt verifications acknowledging that he received the escrow funds.

However, he never deposited any of the buyer’s earnest deposit funds he acknowledged receiving into his trust account.

He maintained that he was unaware he had to deposit the checks and admitted that he returned the checks to his client, the buyers despite the escrow agreement expressly requiring the funds to be deposited.

A judgment was entered in favor of the seller in which Dominguez was held jointly and severally liable for the funds with his clients.

Dominguez has repaid a portion of the funds.

(Case No: SC20-621)

LAWYER VALERIE DOWNING OF NAPLES, FLORIDA

Valerie Kaye Downing, 1460 Golden Gate Pkwy., Suite 103-220, Naples, disbarred effective 30 days following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2004)

Downing failed to competently and diligently represent a client in an eviction matter, resulting in an order of monetary sanctions for payment of the opposing party’s attorney’s fees being issued against Downing and her client.

Downing also failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings.

(Case No: SC21-856)

FAILURE TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, LAWYER ROBERT GRADY OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA IS SUSPENDED

Robert Charles Grady, 6243 Autumn Berry Cir., Jacksonville, suspended for one year effective immediately following a November 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1981)

Grady was held in contempt of the court’s order dated March 17, 2021, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension.

(Case No: SC21-1274)

A TENDENCY TO BE VIOLENT TO THOSE HE LOVES, LAWYER GREGORY JOHN HOAG OF TAMPA IS A PERFECT FLORIDA LAWYER, PER THE BAR.

Gregory John Hoag, 218 N Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, public reprimand by publication and completion of three-year FLA contract effective immediately following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

Hoag was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence in May 2019

for which he plead no contest, adjudication withheld, and completed the conditions of his probation.

(Case No: SC21-1683)

ANOTHER THIEVIN’ ATTORNEY MELANIE JOHNSON OF TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA IS PUT ON VACATION

Melanie L. Johnson, 4790 Longbow Dr., Titusville, suspended effective 30 days following a December 9 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2004)

Johnson engaged in misconduct, including, but not limited to, misappropriating client funds and commingling attorney and client funds.

(Case No: SC21-1675)

THIEVIN’ LAWYER EVAN S. KAGAN OF CALABAS, CA STOLE REAL ESTATE FUNDS AND HAS A HISTORY OF QUESTIONABLE CONSUMER DEBT RELIEF SERVICES, INCLUDING ALLEGED POLICE RAIDS

Evan Scott Kagan, P.O. Box 8756, Calabasas, CA., disciplinary revocation effective immediately following a December 16 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2006)

Kagan misused trust funds

and failed to comply, in full, with a Bar subpoena.

(Case No: SC21-1492)

CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA LAWYER MARIO LAMAR’s CONFLICT OF INTEREST – ‘I AM A MESSENGER, NOT A LAWYER’

Mario A. Lamar, 3971 S.W. 8th St., Suite 305, Coral Gables, suspended for three years effective 30 days following a December 6 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1973)

Lamar handled the civil representation between Client A and Client B, who were business partners and both indicted on federal charges.

Client A agreed to testify against Client B in the criminal matter.

Despite the fact that Client A had testified against Client B in the criminal matter, Lamar agreed to represent both parties.

Lamar was engaged to separate their business interests, where the split ended up favoring Client A over Client B.

Lamar disbursed all of the assets from one investment to Client A despite knowing Client B had claimed an interest.

The referee found that Lamar had an unwaivable conflict in representing the two men, that he had engaged in acts that were deceitful, fraudulent, or dishonest, and that he had distributed money improperly from his trust account.

(Case No: SC18-1600)

DRUNK N’ DISORDERLY LAWYER ERICA LEISER OF SATELLITE BEACH, FLORIDA

Erica Joanne Leiser, P.O. Box 372184, Satellite Beach, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a December 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1987)

In 2017, Leiser was adjudicated guilty of DUI, a second-degree misdemeanor.

She failed to notify The Florida Bar of this determination or judgment within 10 days of the entry of the judgment or determination of guilt to DUI.

In a second case in 2021, Leiser pled no contest and was adjudicated guilty of Refusal to Give Breath Test after Previous Suspension, a first-degree misdemeanor, and Reckless Driving with Property Damage with alcohol as a factor, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The court sentenced Leiser to probation for 24 months that may not be terminated until she has completed 18 months of probation.

(Case No: SC21-1227)

ARRESTED THIEVIN’ LAWYER BRITTANY LOPER AKA BRITTANY COOPER OF JASPER, FLORIDA IS BOOTED OUT

Brittany Marie Loper, 5534 S.E. 119th Pl., Jasper, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following a December 2 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2013)

Loper failed to diligently pursue her clients’ matters, failed to maintain communication with the clients, and did not complete the representation for which she had been hired.

Further, Loper was arrested in Hamilton County as Brittany Cooper, on two counts of felony forgery and one count of uttering. Loper allegedly forged a notary signature on adoption papers and forged the signature of a judge on a court document.

(Case No: SC21-1303)

LAWYER ANTONIO MARTIN OF DAVENPORT, FLORIDA’S GOT CONFLICTS EERILY SIMILAR TO MARK PAYNE, BUT THE BAR RECKON A 90-DAY SUSPENSION IS ADEQUATE

Antonio Giovonnie Martin, P.O. Box 220, Davenport, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a December 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2010)

Martin engaged in a conflict of interest when he concurrently represented the grantor, the beneficiary, and himself as trustee and counsel for the grantor and the beneficiary in the creation of a land trust, as well as representing the grantor in the foreclosure defense for the subject property.

Martin did not obtain a signed, written waiver from the parties nor recommend that they consult with independent counsel.

Martin withdrew from representing the parties.

(Case No: SC21-915)

ARRESTED LAWYER JULIO MARTINEZ OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA HAS FRIENDS AT THE BAR

Julio J. Martinez, 6450 Collins Ave., Apt. 1108, Miami Beach, public reprimand by publication and two years probation effective 30 days following a November 18 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2010)

Martinez was arrested after a traffic stop and charged with possession of cocaine, license suspended without knowledge, speeding, possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Subsequently, the prosecutor dropped the possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia counts.

Martinez was accepted into the pretrial intervention program and after successful completion of the program, all remaining charges were dropped.

The grievance committee considered this matter and made a diversion recommendation that required Martinez to enter into a contract with FLA, Inc.

Martinez failed to comply with the conditions of his FLA, Inc., contract after testing positive for cocaine several times.

(Case No: SC21-1532)

ATTORNEY KELLY MCCABE OF ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA WON’T COMPLY, SO SHE’S DISBARRED

Repeat Offender: Discipline Upgraded in ’22

Kelly Anne McCabe, 535 Central Ave., Suite 435, St. Petersburg, disbarred effective immediately following a November 30 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2004)

McCabe was held in contempt of the court’s order dated June 17, 2021, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of her suspension.

(Case No: SC21-1371)

ATTORNEY TIMMY MCCLAIN OF ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Timmy McClain, P.O. Box 536387, Orlando, admonishment by publication effective 30 days following a December 2 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

McClain filed a Motion to Withdraw from his representation of a defendant in a civil matter but did not set the motion for hearing.

The court ordered McClain to schedule a hearing for the Motion to Withdraw or reaffirm his representation of the defendant.

When McClain failed to respond, plaintiff’s counsel set a hearing on the Motion to Withdraw.

The court issued an Order to Show Cause directing McClain to show cause why he failed to appear for the hearing and failed to set the Motion to Withdraw for hearing.

The court further informed The Florida Bar of McClain’s conduct.

As soon as McClain learned of the Bar grievance and the underlying facts, he took steps to communicate with the parties and court to resolve the situation.

(Case No: SC21-1149)

81 YEAR OLD LAWYER ENRIQUE MIRANDA OF MIAMI, FLORIDA FORCED INTO PERMANENT RETIREMENT AFTER ‘ESCROW MISMANAGEMENT’ OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

Enrique Miranda, 7820 SW 117th St., Miami, disbarred effective immediately following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1984)

Miranda inappropriately disbursed escrow funds; made misrepresentations about the funds held in trust; and violated the fiduciary duty owed to both the remitter and the beneficiary of the funds deposited.

Miranda also facilitated fraud by improperly disbursing funds in a real estate transaction.

(Case No: SC21-183).

WALL ST. LAWYER RICHARD NUMMI OF ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA’s HIDIN’ MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR A CLIENT DURING A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION – NO PROBLEM, 30 DAY SUSPENSION

In re Weideman, 327 F. App’x 215, 234 (2d Cir. 2009) (“ we wish to make it plain that, in general, a secret loan arrangement by a lawyer in violation of fiduciary duties is serious misconduct. In deed, because “the likelihood of actual embezzlement is so great, and the policy of professional responsibility in protecting the client from such risks is so strong,” such conduct should, in the future, generally be regarded as tantamount to knowing conversion. ”)

Richard Mark Nummi, 701 77th Ave. N., Unit 56194, St. Petersburg, suspended for 30 days effective 30 days following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Nummi held excessive fees belonging to him in his trust account and commingled earned fees in the trust account.

The Bar’s audit also determined that the shortage in a client’s ledger was covered by Nummi’s firm funds in the account and no other client’s funds were used.

Nummi’s trust account records were not in compliance with the rules.

Nummi failed to timely respond to the Bar’s requests for information in the case and failed to reasonably communicate with a client.

(Case No: SC21-23)

At respondent’s sworn statement, the following inquiry occurred:

Q: Did you hold any funds for this client in the trust account?

A: I did.

Q: And why were those funds held in trust?

A: [the client] was concerned that – – well, [the client] had an actual problem at the time in that his bank accounts were being closed, and was concerned about his ability to pay his legal fees. And so I was to be the holder of those funds.

Q: Why were his accounts being closed?

A: [the client] had been accused of violating the anti-money laundering laws of the United States.

Q: How much of [the client’s] money was held in trust

A: At the high-water mark, about 3 – – 3.5 million and change. 3. – something.

Q: And how long as that money held in trust?

A: I can get those exact numbers for you. About two years, year and a half…

LAWYER KELSAY PATTERSON OF TAMPA, FLORIDA

Kelsay Dayon Patterson, P.O. Box 273826, Tampa, suspended for two years and must complete ethics school and professionalism workshop effective immediately following a December 9 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Patterson was counsel for a plaintiff in a civil rights case in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida Orlando Division.

During his representation, Patterson acted vexatiously throughout the litigation, multiplying and delaying the proceedings, and consistently alleging unfounded racial and other biased partiality on the part of opposing counsel and the judiciary.

Further, Patterson misused an inadvertently disclosed fax and interrogatories in the litigation.

(Case No: SC19-2070)

LAWYER PETER ROBERTSON OF ST AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA WARRANTED DISBARMENT FOR FRAUD ON THE BAR AND ATTEMPTING TO EVADE SUSPENSION BY DECEPTION. INSTEAD HE WAS SLAPPED.

Peter Arnold Robertson, 5575 A1A South, Suite 116, St. Augustine, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a December 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1991)

Following an August 6 order suspending Robertson from the practice of law for 90 days, Robertson discovered additional persons he was required to notify and provide a copy of his suspension order as required by under Rule 3-5.1(h).

Robertson failed to provide an amended sworn affidavit listing the additional people that were notified after his initial and first amended affidavits were filed with the Bar.

In addition, Robertson’s associates filed several pleadings on his behalf after the effective date of his suspension.

(Case No: SC21-676)

II. Respondent’s suspension and The Construction Law Group

13. In or around May 2020, respondent, who practiced law through his wholly owned entity The Robertson Firm, assisted two of the associate attorneys he employed, William Douglas Stanford, Jr. and Jacklyn Bennett, create a new law firm to be called Construction Law Group, LLC for the purpose of transferring all pending client matters from respondent/The Robertson Firm to Construction Law Group prior to the entry of respondent’s disciplinary suspension order.

14. The registered effective date of the company, Construction Law Group, LLC was July 1, 2020.

15. On or about July 1, 2020, Construction Law Group, LLC commenced operations in the same office space as that of The Robertson Firm and respondent’s construction business.

16. The lease of the office space used by Construction Law Group continued to remain in the name of The Robertson Firm during the period of suspension and the Construction Law Group utilized the office equipment that belonged to The Robertson Firm.

17. Because Construction Law Group, LLC lacked operating capital, respondent used accounts receivable of The Robertson Firm to assist with payment of some of the operating expenses of Construction law Group, LLC during the period of suspension.

18. The Robertson Law Firm also paid rent on behalf of the Construction Law Group, LLC and the payroll for the employees, virtually all of whom had been employed by The Robertson Law Firm. Respondent made the payments from The Robertson Law Firm’s operating account after the effective date of his suspension.

19. During his suspension period, respondent continued to be present in the office that his construction business shared with The Construction Law Group, LLC.

LAWYER S.A. SIDDIQUI OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

S.A. Siddiqui, 3840 Belfort Rd., Suite 302, Jacksonville, suspended for three years effective immediately following a December 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Siddiqui engaged in a pattern of misconduct involving four separate client matters.

Siddiqui failed to provide his clients with competent representation and adequate communication, and he improperly disclosed confidential information.

Siddiqui also threatened to sue two clients for filing grievances with The Florida Bar.

In addition, Siddiqui failed to respond timely to the Bar’s inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-514)

LAWYER MARC SOSS OF LAKEWOOD RANCH, FLORIDA

Marc Jeremy Soss, P.O. Box 110127, Lakewood Ranch, suspended for 30 days and attend ethics school effective 30 days following a December 2 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1992)

Soss represented a client in a guardianship matter pertaining to the client’s husband and as the surviving spouse of the decedent in the probate of the husband’s estate. He also represented the same client in seeking reimbursement from the client’s deceased husband’s trust for funds she expended for his care.

During the representation, the client appointed Soss as successor trustee.

Soss served the notice of the appointment as successor trustee on the interested parties and beneficiaries, but not on the court for approval or confirmation.

Soss simultaneously served as counsel for the client and trustee of the husband’s Revocable Trust. During the Bar’s investigation of the conflict of interest, Soss provided a PDF copy of a conflict waiver that he had altered at or around the time the document was requested.

While acting as trustee, Soss disbursed funds that he was not legally entitled to use as he was not legally the successor trustee.

After the court ordered him to do so, Soss returned the funds he had disbursed.

(Case No: SC21-694)

ATTORNEY STUART J. STARR, 78, OF FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA DISBARRED FOR CONDUCT NOT DISSIMILAR THAN ATTORNEY PETE ROBERTSON (ABOVE)

Stuart Jared Starr, 5241 S.W. 9th St., Ft. Lauderdale, disbarred effective immediately following a December 15 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1970)

Starr was held in contempt of the Court’s order dated February 18, 2021, for failing to comply with Rule 3-5.1(h) requirements of notifying clients, opposing counsel and tribunals of his suspension.

(Case No: SC21-1279)

LAWYER ROBYN SZTYNDOR OF FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA

Robyn Lynn Sztyndor, 123 NE 17th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, public reprimand before The Florida Bar Board of Governors effective immediately following a November 24 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2011)

Sztyndor acted unprofessionally in four separate matters.

In two of the matters, Sztyndor made unprofessional and sarcastic remarks about opposing counsel and witnesses in email communications.

She also made unprofessional statements orally, in emails, and in court filings impugning the integrity of a judge.

At a deposition, Sztyndor told the deponent that she would seek sanctions, contempt, and move to strike their claim after the witness requested to postpone the deposition to hire independent counsel.

Lastly, Sztyndor questioned opposing counsel’s veracity at a deposition and made similar allegations against opposing counsel in email communications with the judge’s judicial assistant and in a motion filed with the court.

Sztyndor’s conduct resulted in a burden on opposing counsel’s clients, and the client’s fired opposing counsel.

(Case No: SC21-979)

LAWYER TIM WAYNE TERRY OF ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Timothy Wayne Terry, 501 N. Magnolia Ave., Orlando, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a December 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1981)

In three separate family law matters, Terry failed to diligently represent and maintain adequate communication with his clients.

Terry refunded his fees and attempted to mitigate his misconduct to the best of his abilities.

(Case No: SC21-1046)

MILLIONAIRE BEACH BUM, JORDAN WEINKLE OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA

Jordan Garrett Weinkle, 1688 Meridian Ave., Suite 440, Miami Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following a December 2 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2015)

Allegations in a related underlying emergency suspension proceeding include misappropriation of funds held in trust to pay property taxes in a mortgage transaction; misrepresentations; and failure to respond to Bar inquiries.

(Case No: SC21-1459).

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.

Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles.

Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined.

The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not reapply for admission for five years.

They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation.

Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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First Amendment

Gov. Ron DeSantis Is Aligned With Totalitarianism and His Laws Confirm He’s “The Unwanted Dictator”

The Governor of Florida wants to be the President of the United States and The People’s Liberty and Free Speech Rights are being Quashed. Say No, Citizens.

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What are the 5 characteristics of totalitarianism?

1.  A one-party state where one party has a monopoly on all political activity.
2. A state ideology upheld by the ruling party that is given status as the only authority.
3. State information monopoly that controls mass media for distribution of official truth.
4. State controlled economy with major economic entities under the control of the state.
5. Ideological terror that turns economic or professional actions into crimes. Violators are exposed to prosecution and to ideological persecution.

You Can Apply a Checkmark Against Gov. Ron Desantis.

The Unwanted Dictator Fits “This Bill”.

Florida Bans Residential Picketing with “Intent to Harass or Disturb” — but What Exactly Does That Mean?

A content-neutral ban on all residential picketing would be constitutional; but the “intent to harass or disturb” limitation may make the law unconstitutional or ineffective.

MAY 17, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 19, 2022

The law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday, provides:

(1) As used in this section, the term “dwelling” means a building, structure, or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one or more families.

(2) It is [a misdemeanor] for a person to picket or protest before or about the dwelling of any person with the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her dwelling….

(4) Before a person may be arrested for a violation of this section, a law enforcement officer … must go as near to the person as may be done with safety and shall command any person picketing or protesting before or about the dwelling of a person to immediately and peaceably disperse. If any such person does not thereupon immediately and peaceably disperse, he or she may be arrested for a violation of this section.

Gov. DeSantis Brags About Having the Biggest Surplus of Funds… LIF knows How That is Possible. Theft.

Now a flat ban on all “focused picketing taking place solely in front of a particular residence” would be constitutional, as the Court expressly held in Frisby v. Schultz (1988), interpreting an ordinance that used the “before or about” language.

(In Carey v. Brown (1980), the Court had held that a content-based residential picketing ban was unconstitutional, but Frisby held that content-neutral ones are fine.)

But this statute wouldn’t ban all such residential picketing, but only picketing

“with the intent to harass or disturb.”

I appreciate the desire to narrow the ordinance;

consider Justice Stevens’ dissent in Frisby, which faulted the ordinance for making it a crime

“for a fifth grader to carry [a] sign” outside a friend’s home saying, “Get well Charlie—our team needs you.”

But I think this attempt to narrow it might actually make it unconstitutionally content-based, unconstitutionally vague, or perhaps effectively meaningless.

The problem is that the ordinance doesn’t define “harass,” and the closest state law analog—the Florida stalking statute—defines “harass” to “mean[] to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”

What counts as a “legitimate purpose”?

The stalking cases haven’t set forth a categorical test, and indeed acknowledge its uncertainty (and circularity):

Whether the purpose for contact is “legitimate” is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the term “legitimate” seems to be lacking a precise definition.

However, courts have generally held that contact is legitimate when there is a reason for the contact other than to harass the victim.

But they have recognized that a good range of communication, including communication to a person and not just about the person, is viewed as having a “legitimate purpose.”

Indeed, One Florida appellate case made clear that a wife’s “contact[ing her husband’s lover] by phone and by messages and ‘friend’ requests on Facebook” to “tell[ the lover] to stay away from [the husband]” was a legitimate purpose.

Another held the same as to a girlfriend warning her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend to “stay away” from him.

A third held that calling one’s daughter’s dance team coach to complain about the “daughter’s participation in a dance team competition” “was a legitimate purpose.”

A fourth held the same about “six text messages” “asking him to repay $10,000.”

It seems that

protesting outside someone’s home to tell the person to vote a particular way on a political proposal

(if the person is a legislator)

or to stop performing abortions

(if the person is an abortion provider)

or to change corporate policy

(if the person is a business executive)

would likewise be a “legitimate purpose” under that term.

(The Florida stalking law also specifically says that another element of the stalking statute, “course of conduct,” “does not include constitutionally protected activity such as picketing or other organized protests,” but that is not itself within the definition of “harass” in that stalking law.)

It thus seems to me that there are three options here:

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper (whether having an affair, failing to repay money, acting a particular way as a dance coach, or doing anything else) is a “legitimate purpose,” in which case the “intent to harass” branch of the law would do little about residential picketing.

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper is not a “legitimate purpose”; but where is that in the statute, especially given how “legitimate purpose” has been defined in the cases under the Florida stalking statute?

An intent to communicate to the picketed person that one thinks his behavior is improper is sometimes a “legitimate purpose” and sometimes not a legitimate purpose, depending on whether one is communicating about something one has a legitimate interest in (e.g., the target’s having an affair with one’s husband).

But that would likely be unconstitutionally vague, and likely unconstitutionally content-based.

Gov. DeSantis Attended the January Orlando Federalist Society meeting where for the first time, Media was Banned for the speech by a Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Of course, the law also bans residential picketing with the intent to disturb, which might potentially be much broader.

But that term appears to be entirely undefined within Florida law, which further suggests that it might be unconstitutionally vague.

(I did find one other Florida statute that spoke of “harass[ing] or disturb[ing],” but that had to do with manatees.)

Would, say, picketing outside a legislator’s home aiming at persuading the legislator to vote a particular way be viewed as intent to disturb, or as intent to persuade?

What if there’s evidence that the real purpose for the picketing was to draw media attention?

More broadly, the Supreme Court held in Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015) that statutory distinctions that “defin[e] regulated speech by its function or purpose” may be content-based, presumably if the function or purpose relates to the content of the speech.

And since speech said with “intent to disturb” would often disturb precisely because of its disturbing content, that would mean the statute is content-based; as I mentioned, the Court has held that content-based restrictions on residential picketing are content-based.

Nor can one respond by saying that all residential picketing is inherently intentionally disturbing because it intentionally intrudes on the target’s privacy:

After all, the law doesn’t ban all residential picketing, but only residential picketing conducted “with the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her dwelling,” which suggests that the legislature views some residential picketing as intentionally disturbing and some as not.

So it looks like, by trying to limit the scope of the residential picketing ban, the Florida Legislature might have either made it unconstitutional or ineffective.

Perhaps this is a flaw in the Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence; again, consider Justice Stevens’ view, both in his Frisby dissent and in his Carey dissent, that content discrimination that narrows the scope of such laws is a virtue and not a vice.

Indeed, Justice Stevens’s dissent in Frisby suggested that the better approach is for such laws to be limited “to conduct that unreasonably interferes with the privacy of the home and does not serve a reasonable communicative purpose”—something that might be pretty close to the Florida “intent to harass” language.

But Justice Stevens was dissenting, and for better or worse the majority opinion, with its insistence on content neutrality, is the law.

NRA's Marion Hammer Sponsored the Bill

Investigation concludes Marion Hammer must disclose NRA money for lobbying

AUG 23, 2019 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 19, 2022

The Office of Legislative Services Friday ordered powerful gun lobbyist Marion Hammer to refile quarterly lobbying compensation reports for the past four years to reflect income from the National Rifle Association.

Those amended reports have been submitted and Senate President Bill Galvano said he considers the case closed.

Two Democratic lawmakers filed formal complaints in May about Hammer’s quarterly compensation reports.

They charged she failed to fully disclose how much money she was paid to lobby the Legislature on gun issues.

Hammer formed Unified Sportsmen of Florida in 1975 as an NRA affiliate to promote Second Amendment rights at the Capitol. She is its only employee.

OLS General Counsel Audrey H. Moore concluded that Hammer as an “in-house” employee did not have to report lobbying income from Unified Sportsmen but added the money the NRA gives to the group must be disclosed.

Gov. DeSantis openly brags at a TPPF Conference in Texas, funded by Koch Industries, Big Tobacco et al how he manipulated the judges assigned to the courts for his own political agenda.

In a statement, Hammer said it’s never been a secret she was a lobbyist.

She said she sought out and relied on advice from the General Counsel of the Florida Senate that she didn’t need to fulfill any additional filing requirements.

“I, of course, am pleased that this matter has been concluded,”

she said.

“However, I am less than happy that the officials handling and commenting on these matters did not highlight the important point that I did not do anything wrong except rely on the advice of counsel.”

Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, filed the formal complaints, they said, to get a better idea of who is driving a gun agenda in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Broward County, Vice Chair of the ÊSenate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development speaks at a news conference held in opposition to Senate Bill 7096 in the fourth floor Capitol rotunda Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Thurston criticized the Rules Committee’s decision to refer the complaint to OLS and not conduct a full investigation.

“Had the Rules Committee followed this mandatory procedure, the people of Florida would have witnessed a much more transparent process, allowing both Republicans and Democrats to probe the facts, bring forward the evidence, and arrive at the appropriate conclusion,” said Thurston.

“The report issued today serves as a bitter reminder of the powerful grip Ms. Hammer and the NRA continue to maintain over the Republican-led Florida legislature,” said Thurston.

Tax filings reveal that Unified Sportsmen raises more than $200,000 annually from its membership but do not show how much money was spent to influence lawmakers.

Eskamani said the House refused to hear nearly a dozen of what she called common-sense gun legislation in 2019 and points to Hammer as the culprit for the silence.

“The public deserves to have an understanding of her level of influence and where her resources come from,”

said Eskamani about the legendary lobbyist credited with creation of the concealed-carry permit and stand-your-ground law.

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When the World’s Bankers and Governments Are Behavin’ Like Thieves and Criminals, It Really Is Time to Object, Vociferously

The appalling greed and corruption is playing out live since 2008 and without any accountability to the people. One Percenters are completely immune and laughing At You.

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Ukrainian who made appearance in Trump impeachment saga accused by U.S. of stealing, laundering billions

AUG 6, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The Justice Department on Thursday accused a Ukrainian oligarch who has been considered an ally of Ukraine’s president of stealing billions of dollars from a bank he once owned, then using a vast array of companies to launder that money in the United States and all over the world.

In a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to seize commercial properties in Kentucky and Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner, Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole so much from PrivatBank that Ukraine’s national bank had to give the institution a $5.5 billion bailout “to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”

Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, has ties to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he played a role in the events that led to President Trump’s impeachment last year. He made a fortune in the rough-and-tumble capitalism that swept Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse, amassing assets including airlines and financial institutions, and created a larger-than-life image for himself, going by the nickname “Benya,” and keeping a shark aquarium in his office.

Kolomoisky and Boholiubov were the two major owners of PrivatBank before it was nationalized in response to the fraud, the Justice Department said, and the men basically used it as a personal account to build a business empire in the United States. They requested money from PrivatBank — which they always received because they were owners — then moved the funds through a network of companies to “thoroughly disguise their nature, source, ownership, and control,” the Justice Department alleged.

Experts have expressed increasing concern that U.S. real estate — including factories and facilities important to American industry — has become a magnet for foreign money, including proceeds of criminal activities abroad. Among Kolomoisky’s and Boholiubov’s purchases were more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio; steel plants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan; a cellphone manufacturing plant in Illinois; and commercial real estate in Texas, the Justice Department alleged. The forfeiture complaints sought to seize a roughly 19.5-acre office park in Dallas and the PNC Plaza building in Louisville.

Michael J. Sullivan, a lawyer for Kolomoisky, said in an email: “Mr. Kolomoisky emphatically denies the allegations in the complaints filed by the Department of Justice.” The allegations, which are not criminal charges, are similar to those in a lawsuit filed by the bank in a Delaware court. A lawyer for Boholiubov did not reply to an email seeking comment.

In a statement written in Russian, Kolomoisky said all the money used to purchase the U.S. properties was his own, received through a deal made with a mining company in 2007 and 2008 and from other businesses that banked with Privatbank.

Kolomoisky also has long been facing a criminal probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland for possible money laundering. As a part of that case, the FBI raided the office of Optima Management Group in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday, as well as an Optima office in the Southeast Financial Center building in Miami.

In court documents, the Justice Department alleged Thursday that two Miami-based business associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov’s — Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber — helped acquire and manage the oligarchs’ holdings in the United States, which often bear some version of the name “Optima.” Optima Ventures at one point became the “largest holder of commercial real estate in Cleveland,” using stolen funds to buy major downtown office buildings and a hotel, the Justice Department alleged.

Last year, Marc Kasowitz, a New York lawyer who also represents Trump, signed on to represent Kolomoisky and Boholiubov in the Delaware case. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Under Ukraine’s last president, Petro Poroshenko, the government nationalized Privatbank, alleging that Kolomoisky and one of his business partners had defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. Kolomoisky denied those charges but decamped from Kyiv to Israel, where he also holds citizenship. He retained political power in Ukraine through his business holdings, which include a major Ukrainian television station.

Kolomoisky is seen as an ally to Zelensky, who was an actor before his election, starring in a comedy show that aired on Kolomoisky’s network. Zelensky’s election was widely seen as a boon for Kolomoisky, particularly after the new president made Kolomoisky’s personal lawyer the head of his administration. Some in the United States were suspicious of Zelensky’s ties to the mogul, thinking the connection ran counter to Zelensky’s promises to pursue an anti-corruption and reformist agenda.

Since then, however, Zelensky has not supported returning control of Privatbank to the oligarch, and he fired that top aide. Still, Kolomoisky has been comfortable enough with Ukraine’s current leadership that he returned from a self-imposed exile in Tel Aviv and is again based in Kyiv, where he maintains connections to members of the presidential administration.

In spring 2019, when Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani embarked on a mission to press Zelensky to assist Trump by opening politically charged investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Giuliani’s associates met with Kolomoisky to request that Giuliani get a sit-down with the rising Ukrainian politician.

Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Kolomoisky in April 2019 in Tel Aviv, and, by all accounts, the meeting did not go well.

Giuliani associates claimed to have sway with both foreign billionaires and Trump administration officials

After the meeting, the two ­Florida-based business executives accused Kolomoisky of physically threatening them and filed a lawsuit against him in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman, who assisted Giuliani in his Ukraine project, were charged in the United States with campaign finance violations last year. They have denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani has said he provided legal advice to Parnas and Fruman in their fight against Kolomoisky. He also tweeted repeatedly about his displeasure with Kolomoisky in May 2019 just as he was pressuring Zelensky to assist Trump with a Biden investigation. At one point, Giuliani complained that Zelensky was being advised by “Kolomoisky’s representatives and enemies of President Trump.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Kolomoisky has told The Post that during the Tel Aviv meeting, Parnas and Fruman claimed that they could get top U.S. officials, including Vice President Pence and then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to travel to Ukraine around the time of Zelensky’s May 2019 inauguration — if Kolomoisky paid them several hundred thousand dollars. Kolomoisky did not pay the money, instead throwing the two men out of his office, his lawyer has said.

The attorney, Bruce Marks, told The Post that Kolomoisky had predicted to friends at the time: “This is going to end up in a bad scandal.”

Ukraine arrests ex-PrivatBank official as U.S. prioritizes criminal probe of former owners

FEB 26, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has arrested the former deputy chairman of a Ukrainian bank at the heart of an FBI criminal investigation as he attempted to fly abroad in the latest sign Kyiv is taking steps to tackle corruption and lawlessness.

Volodymyr Yatsenko was detained at Boryspil Airport in Kyiv on February 22 after investigators forced the pilot of the private jet he was traveling on to land, the bureau announced in a tweet.

Mr. Yatsenko, who was on his way to Vienna after reportedly being tipped off about his arrest, was charged with the embezzlement of funds at PrivatBank, once the nation’s largest lender.

More arrests of management could follow, the Kyiv Post reported.

The FBI is investigating the two owners of PrivatBank – Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov – in connection with accusations that more than $5 billion was stolen from the lender through fraudulent loans and that the money was then laundered.

In a move that made international headlines, Ukraine was forced to nationalize PrivatBank in 2016 and pump more than $5 billion into the lender in order to stave off its bankruptcy.

The U.S. accuses Messrs. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov of using some of the laundered proceeds to buy assets in the U. S., ranging from metals companies to commercial properties, with the help of two American associates based in Miami.

The Justice Department last year filed three civil forfeiture lawsuits in a Florida court against a U.S. real estate holding controlled by the two tycoons and run by the associates.

However, a judge agreed last week with a Justice Department request to temporarily suspend the civil forfeiture proceedings amid concerns it could harm the criminal investigation against the Ukrainian businessmen and their two American partners.

“Allowing [the tycoons] to conduct discovery would expose the identities of witnesses who have provided and will provide information and testimony in both the civil forfeiture actions and the criminal investigation,” the Justice Department said in its February 19 filing.

“If that occurs, the confidential informants may cease providing information, and, to the extent they are not reachable through process in the United States, they may make themselves unavailable for future testimony. Potential sources of information who have not yet been interviewed by the government would likely be deterred from coming forward” the Justice Department said in its filing.

The tycoons deny the accusations and neither Ukraine nor the United States has filed criminal charges against them.

Mr. Kolomoisky is one of the most influential tycoons in Ukraine and the U.S. government’s investigation into his activities is being closely followed.

The billionaire owns key media, energy, and metals assets and is believed to have outsized influence over the administration of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr. Kolomoisky’s TV stations backed Mr. Zelenskyy’s successful presidential bid.

The U.S., one of Ukraine’s biggest backers financially and militarily, has repeatedly expressed concern about oligarchic influence over the nation’s government and economy.

Washington has also complained about the lack of investigations into corrupt tycoons and officials and has tied some aid to improvements in judicial reform.

The arrest of Mr. Yatsenko, who was flying on a private plane owned by Mr. Kolomoisky, is the latest in a series of moves by Kyiv to tackle cases that resonate with the U.S.

Mr. Zelenskyy last week approved sanctions on Viktor Medvedchuk, a tycoon and lawmaker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Medvedchuk was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2014 for undermining democracy in Ukraine.

On February 2, Mr. Zelenskyy sanctioned three television stations believed to be owned by Mr. Medvedchuk. In late January he announced an investigation into Ukrainian individuals accused of interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

The moves come after President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20. Mr. Biden knows Ukraine well, having served as the point man to Kyiv while serving as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Political analysts say Mr. Zelenskyy is seeking to win over the Biden administration after a difficult relationship with the Trump administration caused by the 2019 impeachment investigation.

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Bankers

In 2008 Two Ukrainians Would Plan to Steal over $5.5B from their Private Bank and Launder Wads Via Miami

The DOJ Press Release combined with the 11th Cir. opinion and district court cases in Southern Fl. are well worth the read if you want to learn about power, politics, corruption to avoid jail.

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United States Files Civil Forfeiture Complaint for Proceeds of Alleged Fraud and Theft from PrivatBank in Ukraine

JAN 20, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

The United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that more than $6 million in proceeds from the sale of commercial real estate in Dallas, Texas, which property was maintained and improved using the proceeds of embezzlement and fraud from PrivatBank in Ukraine, are subject to forfeiture based on violations of federal money laundering statutes.

This civil forfeiture action is the fourth such action filed in connection with the same alleged criminal activity.

In August 2020, the United States filed two actions in the Southern District of Florida alleging that commercial real estate in Dallas and Louisville, Kentucky, was acquired using funds illegally obtained from PrivatBank in Ukraine as part of a multibillion-dollar fraudulent loan scheme.

It filed a third suit in the same district in December 2020 alleging a property in Cleveland, Ohio, was similarly involved.

The four complaints allege that Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov, who owned PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, embezzled and defrauded the bank of billions of dollars.

The two allegedly obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit from approximately 2008 through 2016, when the scheme was uncovered and the bank was nationalized by the National Bank of Ukraine.

The complaints allege that they laundered a portion of the criminal proceeds using an array of shell companies’ bank accounts, primarily at PrivatBank’s Cyprus branch, before they transferred the funds to the United States.

As alleged in the complaints, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, who were associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov operating out of offices in Miami, created a web of entities, usually under some variation of the name “Optima,” to further launder the misappropriated funds.

They purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and businesses across the country, including commercial towers located at 8787 North Stemmons Freeway in Dallas (Stemmons Towers), which are the subject of this action, as well as the office tower known as 55 Public Square in Cleveland, a Louisville office tower known as PNC Plaza, and a Dallas office park known as the former CompuCom Headquarters.

The newest action alleges that several of the Optima entities, including Optima Ventures LLC, Optima 7171 LLC and Optima Stemmons LLC, used profits from the CompuCom Campus, which had originally been purchased using embezzled funds from PrivatBank, to pay for the improvement and maintenance of Stemmons Towers.

Optima Stemmons then sold Stemmons Towers in 2019 using a seller financing agreement, under which more than $6 million in principal and interest is still owed to a specially-created entity owned by Optima Ventures named 87STE LLC.

The United States seeks to forfeit the promissory note and deed of trust related to that financing agreement, which includes the right to receive payments due pursuant to the deed and its associated sales contract.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office made the announcement.

FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case with support from FBI’s International Corruption Unit and IRS Criminal Investigation.

Trial Attorneys Shai D. Bronshtein and Rachel Goldstein of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are handling these cases.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs has provided substantial assistance in the investigation.

The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, who work to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.

In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to kleptocracy@usdoj.gov or https://tips.fbi.gov/.

A civil complaint is merely an allegation, and the government has the burden of establishing that assets are subject to forfeiture by a preponderance of the evidence.

Attachment(s):
Download PrivatBank Stemmons Complaint.pdf

Topic(s):
Financial Fraud
Component(s):
Criminal Division
Criminal – Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section
Press Release Number:
22-47

United States v. The Promissory Note With a Principal Amount of $5.7 Million, Executed on December 19, 2019 by 8787 Ricchi, LLC, Payable to 87STE Lending LLC

(1:22-cv-20238)

District Court, S.D. Florida

 

Howard Milton Srebnick
Robert Tully Dunlap
Black Srebnick, P.A.
201 S Biscayne Blvd
Ste 1300
Miami, FL 33131

Shai Bronshtein
U.S. Department of Justice,
Criminal Division,
Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section
1400 New York Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20005

In the United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit

[DO NOT PUBLISH – SURE!]

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
versus
REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT 55 PUBLIC SQUARE, CLEVELAND, OHIO, URIEL LABER, et al.,

MAY 17, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 17, 2022

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

D.C. Docket Nos. 1:20-cv-23278-MGC, 1:20-cv-25313-MGC

Before ROSENBAUM, JILL PRYOR, and GRANT, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM

This case arises out of an in rem civil-forfeiture action filed by the government against an office building in Cleveland, Ohio, allegedly bought as part of an international money-laundering scheme.

When the government filed its complaint, the building was under contract to be sold by the building’s owners (and alleged money-launderers) to an unaffiliated third party.

The government agreed to go forward with the sale while the forfeiture case proceeded, and it filed a motion requesting the court’s approval for an uncontested interlocutory sale under Rule G(7)(b) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture.

The court authorized the sale, which closed in February 2021, and the sale proceeds were substituted for the building as the res in the forfeiture proceeding.

Appellant Law Offices of Cleveland (“Cleveland Law”), a tenant at the office building and a claimant in the forfeiture case, timely appealed the interlocutory sale order, seeking to set aside the sale as “void” for lack of compliance with, in its view, necessary procedural requirements.

After careful review, we conclude that Cleveland Law was not harmed by and so lacks standing to appeal the sale order.

We therefore dismiss the appeal.

I.

In December 2020, the United States filed an in rem civil- forfeiture action against the building located at 55 Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio.

In essence, the complaint alleged that 55 Public Square was purchased as part of a scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars misappropriated from PrivatBank, a Ukrainian bank, by two Ukrainian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov.

The government filed two other forfeiture actions arising out of the same scheme.

Several individuals and businesses claimed an interest in 55 Public Square.

On January 19, 2021, four entities and persons allegedly involved in the money-laundering scheme filed claims:

Optima 55 Public Square LLC, the record owner of the building;

Optima Ventures LLC, which owned Optima 55 Public Square;

and

Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, who partially owned Optima Ventures (collectively, the Optima entities).

On January 26, 2021, Cleveland Law, a tenant at 55 Public Square that subleases office space to small law firms and solo practitioners, filed a claim asserting a leasehold interest in the property.

A few days later, several other claimants who had been in litigation against the Optima entities filed a joint claim.

On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, the district court held a status hearing, at which counsel for Cleveland Law was present.

At the hearing, counsel for the Optima entities stated that there was “an anticipated closing on the sale of [55 Public Square] scheduled for … this week,” and that the funds from the sale would be held pending the outcome of the litigation.

The court asked the government if it objected, and counsel for the government responded that it did not object and would soon file a motion to approve the sale.

At no point during the hearing did counsel for Cleveland Law raise an objection to the sale.

Later that same day, the government filed an “Agreed Mo- tion to Authorize Interlocutory Sale” under 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1) and Supplemental Rule G(7), with supporting documentary evidence.

In certain circumstances, Supplemental Rule G(7) permits the district court to authorize the sale of real property before the forfeiture case is resolved.

Supp. Rule G(7)(b).

Ordinarily, such a sale “is governed by 28 U.S.C. §[] 2001,” among other provisions, which requires notice, a hearing, and appraisals before the court may approve a private sale.

Supp. Rule G(7)(b)(iii); 28 U.S.C. § 2001(b).

But the court may use other procedures for the sale if “all parties . . . agree to the sale, aspects of the sale, or different procedures.”

Supp. Rule G(7)(b)(iii).

Once the sale closes, the “[s]ale proceeds are a substitute res subject to forfeiture in place of the property that was sold.”

Supp. Rule G(7)(b)(iv).

The government’s motion sought the district court’s approval to proceed with the sale under the terms of the private purchase agreement, and without regard to § 2001, by agreement of the parties.

The government’s evidence showed that, before the forfeiture action, Optima 55 Public Square had entered into a contract with KD 55 Public Square LLC to sell the office building for approximately $17 million.

At that time, the building was in foreclosure and subject to outstanding taxes and penalties.

The government agreed to the sale because the buyer had no affiliation with the Optima entities and, in its view, a “prompt sale [was] the only way to protect the value of the equity in the building.”

According to a copy of the purchase agreement submitted by the government, the sale included the transfer of all leases at 55 Public Square, including “any and all amendments, modifications or supplements.”

The buyer further agreed to “assume[] and . . .be bound by and to perform and observe all of the obligations, covenants, terms and conditions to be performed or observed under the Assigned Property.”

It appears, in other words, that the buyer assumed and agreed to be bound by all existing leases without alteration.

On February 10, 2021, one day after the government filed its motion, Cleveland Law answered the forfeiture complaint.

That filing did not suggest any opposition to the sale.

Rather, Cleveland Law stated that, as an “innocent owner” of a leasehold interest under 18 U.S.C. § 983(d)(6), its permissible remedies included com- pensation “to the extent of Claimant’s ownership interest once a final order of forfeiture has been entered and the property has been reduced to liquid assets.”

The next day, February 11, 2021, the district court granted the “unopposed” motion to approve the interlocutory sale according to the terms of the purchase agreement.

In the weeks that followed, Cleveland Law did not submit any filing to prevent the sale from occurring.

Instead, after the sale closed, Cleveland Law filed a notice of appeal of the sale order on March 1, 2021.1

1 The parties agree, as do we, that an interlocutory order authorizing the immediate sale of real property in a forfeiture case is a collateral order subject to immediate appeal.

See, e.g., United States v. Real Prop. & Residence Located at 4816 Chaffey Lane, 699 3d 956, 959 (6th Cir. 2012)

(exercising jurisdiction over an interlocutory sale order in a forfeiture case under the collateral-order doctrine).

Cf. Citibank, N.A. v. Data Lease Fin. Corp., 645 F.2d 333, 336–38 (5th Cir. May 1981)

(holding that “an order in a foreclosure proceeding that directs the immediate sale of specified property is in all respects a final order for purposes of appeal.”)

II.

Cleveland Law maintains that the private sale of 55 Public Square was “governed by” § 2001 because “all parties” did not “agree to the sale or different procedures” under Supplemental Rule G(7). It notes that the government never sought or obtained its agreement to the sale, despite its status as a claimant in the forfeiture case.

And it contends that the failure to comply with § 2001’s notice, hearing, and appraisal requirements rendered the sale “void” under the former Fifth Circuit’s decision in Acadia Land Co. v. Horuff, 110 F.2d 354, 355 (5th Cir. 1940)

(holding that the failure to comply with statutory notice, hearing, and appraisal requirements rendered a private sale “void because the court was lacking in jurisdiction to confirm it”).2

The government responds that Cleveland Law tacitly agreed to the sale or waived the issue by failing to object below, and that the appeal is moot because the sale to a good-faith purchaser cannot be undone.

It further argues that Cleveland Law was not actually harmed by the sale order, and that the sale would have gone forward in the same way had the government simply waited to initiate a forfeiture case until the sale closed.

Cleveland Law replies that it lacked a meaningful opportunity to object and that this Court can still grant effective relief.

2This Court adopted as binding precedent all Fifth Circuit decisions prior to October 1, Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc).

III.

After this case was fully briefed, we asked the parties to submit supplemental briefs addressing Cleveland Law’s standing to appeal the interlocutory sale order.

Because standing implicates our jurisdiction, “we are obliged to consider standing sua sponte,” reviewing de novo.

AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Nat’l Ass’n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 494 F.3d 1356, 1359–60 (11th Cir. 2007).

“Litigants must establish their standing not only to bring claims, but also to appeal judgments.”

Wolff v. Cash 4 Titles, 351 F.3d 1348, 1353 (11th Cir. 2003).

“To have appellate standing, a litigant must establish that he has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.”

United States v. Pavlenko, 921 F.3d 1286, 1289 (11th Cir. 2019).

The injury requirement means that “the appealed order must affect the litigant’s interests in an adverse way.”

Id.; see Knight v. State, 14 F.3d 1534, 1556 (11th Cir. 1994).

In other words, “

[o]nly a litigant who is aggrieved by the judgment or order may appeal.”

Wolff, 351 F.3d at 1354 (cleaned up).

Cleveland Law says it has standing because the sale order “modified [its] ownership interest in the property,” “disrupted its business operations,” and violated its due-process rights in the forfeiture proceeding.

It asserts that, while the sale order “purportedly” transferred its lease agreement, the order “fail[ed] to ensure all lease provisions went undisturbed.”

After the sale closed, according to Cleveland Law, the buyer attempted to terminate the lease agreement and then began converting the building to residential housing, causing significant disruption and violating a lease provision that limited use of the building to commercial purposes only.

The government responds that Cleveland Law lacks standing because the sale order kept Cleveland Law’s rights and remedies under the lease fully intact.

In the government’s view, Cleveland Law’s problems with its new landlord stem from the independent actions of a third party, not the sale order itself, and are “outside the ambit of this case.”

It notes that the court abandoned jurisdiction over the building once the sale proceeds were substituted for the building as the res.

It also contends that Cleveland Law received due process and was not prejudiced by any procedural deprivation because even if due process as Cleveland Law envisions it was entitled to had been afforded, the same result would have occurred.

Cleveland Law replies that the Supreme Court has rejected similar reasoning.

We agree with the government that Cleveland Law lacks standing to appeal.

The sale order did not adversely affect Cleveland Law’s leasehold interest in the property.

That order permitted the sale to go forward under the terms of the purchase agreement, which transferred all existing leases to the buyer.

The record contradicts Cleveland Law’s claim that the sale order failed to incorporate addenda to its lease or to document a few other lease provisions.

Under the purchase agreement, the lease transfer included “any and all amendments, modifications or supplements” to leases, and the buyer “agree[d] to be bound by and to perform and observe all of the obligations, covenants, terms and conditions to be performed or observed.”

So while Cleveland Law’s landlord changed, its lease did not.

Indeed, Cleveland Law did not raise any objection to the sale until after it had closed, indicating that its problem was with the new landlord, not the sale itself.

Cleveland Law therefore has not shown that the sale order affected its property interests in an adverse way.

See Pavlenko, 921 F.3d at 1289.

Nor are Cleveland Law’s grievances with its new landlord sufficient to provide standing to appeal the sale order.

To be sure, Cleveland Law appears to have been injured by the new landlord’s attempt to terminate the lease and disruptive renovations for residential housing, alleged to be in violation of a lease provision limiting use of the building to commercial purposes only.

But those injuries were caused by “the independent action of some third party not before the court,” and are not fairly traceable to the sale order itself.

See United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744, 757 (2013)

(“[T]he injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action , and not the result of the independent action of
some third party not before the court.” (cleaned up)).

The sale order did not affect Cleveland Law’s property interest or authorize the buyer to take the actions of which Cleveland Law complains.

And Cleveland Law’s injuries to its use and enjoyment of the property are redressable through an action against that third party.

Cleveland Law fails to explain how undoing the sale and requiring additional procedures under § 2001, related to ensuring a fair sale price, would remedy these injuries.3

See Pavlenko, 921 F.3d at 1289.

3 In its initial briefing, Cleveland Law also cited the protection of 18 U.S.C.§ 985, which states that “the owners or occupants of the real property shall not be evicted from, or otherwise deprived of the use and enjoyment of, real property that is the subject of a pending forfeiture action.”

But as the government points out, that protection “does not apply to forfeitures of the proceeds of the sale of [real property or interests in real property].”

18 U.S.C. § 985(f)(2).

In other words, § 985 no longer applied once the sale of the property closed and the proceeds were substituted as the res.

Finally, Cleveland Law’s alleged due-process injury is not enough on its own to create standing to appeal.

Because Cleveland Law has not shown that the sale order adversely affected its property interest in 55 Public Square, it likewise has not shown that it was harmed by any procedural deficiencies in relation to that order.

For these reasons, we conclude that Cleveland Law lacks standing to appeal the district court’s order authorizing the interlocutory sale of 55 Public Square.

We therefore dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.4

DISMISSED.

4 The government’s motion for summary affirmance or to dismiss on grounds of mootness is DENIED AS MOOT.

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