The Pirate of Black Point

Investors say David Graham used this marina as collateral for a money-making scheme. Too bad it belongs to Dade County

On December 22, 1996, Tamea Behrendt signed a settlement agreement with Reel Deal in which BP Fuel, Inc. -- yet another MMI affiliate company -- agreed to pay back the money, and she pledged the stock of MMI, as well as future revenues from fuel sales at the marina, to secure the agreement.

According to Morjain's lawyer, MMI quickly defaulted on the settlement agreement, and now Reel Deal is moving to enforce its "cash collateral rights," claiming that the yacht company is owed in excess of $196,000. The practical effect of this might be a public auction of MMI stock, with possible acquisition of the company -- and the county lease -- by Marcos Morjain. On the other hand, county administrators and attorneys say the settlement agreement between Morjain and MMI was invalid from the beginning because it was never approved by them.

Time and again, investors and creditors say, Graham claimed to be on the verge of raising large sums of money, usually by using the marina lease as part of yet another complex investment project.

In seeking to reach a settlement with Reel Deal, Graham noted in court papers, he signed a letter of intent with MacKenzie Equities, Ltd. and MacKenzie Ventures, Ltd. on October 1, 1995, to form a new corporate joint venture. "MMI would contribute its leasehold estate to the marina as its capital contribution towards the new corporation," he noted, apparently forgetting that such a change in ownership would require formal county approval.

Three weeks earlier, on September 21, 1995, Graham sent a letter to John Gengler of a company called Holding Capital Group (HCG) saying that "MMI has obtained the right to purchase the leasehold interest or corporate stock of Rickenbacker Marina, Inc." Graham proposed selling both marina leases to HCG for a total of $7.4 million and forming a new partnership, with MMI staying on as marina manager.

Graham's "right" to Rickenbacker Marina was news to Ram Melwani, a Miami businessman who operates the marina. Melwani says Graham approached him a couple of years ago and the two talked about Melwani selling his City of Miami marina lease to Graham. But negotiations soon broke down and a deal never materialized.

"I seem to remember backing away from it pretty early on," Melwani says. "It just didn't feel right. There was never an agreement of any kind."

Melwani's words echo those of Nicholas Christin, a lawyer hired by Miami Dolphins football coach Jimmy Johnson. Christin and Johnson took a boat trip to Black Point following last year's Super Bowl, and Graham later solicited the sports celebrity as a Black Point investor. "We never went through with the deal," Christin notes. "I heard Graham had been involved in some litigation up in Broward."

Since 1987, Graham has been a defendant in no fewer than 33 lawsuits in Broward County. One case alone runs to eighteen volumes of pleadings and involves a California firm, P.S. Marinas, that sued two of Graham's companies in 1990. At the time, Graham was involved in the operation of Harbour Towne Marina in Dania; P.S. Marinas owns a portion of the facility.

The Pirate's Point limited partnership is not the only episode in which Graham intersected with money and left its former possessors unhappy.

On April 3, 1995, without informing county administrators, Graham borrowed $90,000 from a Broward businessman named Harry Murray. To get the loan, Graham signed a promissory note and used the Black Point Marina liquor license as collateral, a violation of the county lease. Within a month he stopped paying back the loan, according to Murray. On February 13, 1996, a judge in Broward issued a final default judgment against Graham in the amount of $96,538 and said that the state court would "enforce and compel" the transfer of the liquor license as an award to Murray. To date Murray still hasn't been repaid for what he thought would be a short-term loan.

Again and again, county administrators threatened and cajoled its Black Point Marina tenant into living up to its end of the bargain. What Dade County never did when it had the chance was evict MMI, despite a litany of abuses.

On May 2, 1994, Metro Park Department interim director C.W. Pezoldt wrote to MMI president Tamea Behrendt listing eleven reasons why the company was in default of its lease. The reasons included failure to pay rent, taxes, late fees and percentages of gross revenues; failure to submit required monthly revenue reports, establish necessary performance and construction bonds, and operate the facility under an approved accounting system; and failure to provide proof of liability insurance. Pezoldt also mentioned receiving a letter from Continental Bank in which the bank informed the county that it held a security interest in some forklifts that MMI planned to use at Black Point -- another potential violation of the lease.

"Throughout our relationship as landlord and tenant, the Park and Recreation Department has made every effort to accommodate Marine Management, Inc.," Pezoldt noted. "We have gone far beyond the normal practices to allow you to achieve a successful project at Black Point Park and Marina. We did not insist that you reconstruct the bait and tackle shop after you modified it without approval. We have assumed the cost of bathroom cleaning and removal of trash when we did not have to.... At this point we are seriously concerned that you will not be the cooperative and complying tenant that you have promised you would be."

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