The Jockey Club's Wild Ride

For two decades it was a chic hangout for South Florida's most well-to-do. Now it's a money pit with a sordid story to tell.

Hernandez has a theory about the source of the fraudulent documents mentioned in the title insurers' lawsuit. "After Eddie Anton left the Jockey Club, there were some documents that were forged," Hernandez says in his soft, earnest voice. "He took money from an investor of mine, defrauded them. When that hit, and I saw that he'd used my name on the forgery, I voluntarily and temporarily resigned from the Bar to show that I had nothing to do with this.

"Anton apparently had created fraudulent mortgages via computer," Hernandez goes on. "I didn't know that his conviction was for mortgage fraud. When I fired him, for whatever reason he went back to his old ways."

That Hernandez, the man he says was once as close to him as a brother, would accuse him of forging documents is no surprise to the incarcerated Anton. He also insists that Hernandez knew full well what kind of felon he was. "I should have known better than to play with people who knew my legal background, who took full advantage of that," he laments. "I'm not going to regret the fact that, because of me, 100-and-some-odd people had employment, that I made that place feel again what it used to be, which was renowned worldwide. I'm not going to tell you that if I had the ability to redo it again that I would not do the deal. I think the deal was a good fuckin' deal, and a deal that I proved that you could make money on. Unfortunately, George Hernandez needed to steal money to make the deal happen. Unfortunately, there was a man with a criminal fuckin' record in the middle, who was able to be used."

The Herman family was reluctant to be interviewed for this story. But over coffee and cookies in their two seventh-floor apartments in Jockey I, Jack Herman, his wife Bobbie, and their daughter Stephanie tried to put a brave face on what Stephanie called the family's "annus horribilis."

In addition to the craziness at the club downstairs, the family was beset by further tragedy. Sam Sardinia, husband of Jack Herman's daughter Lori and president and CEO of Jockey Holdings, died of brain cancer at age 65 in March; he was gravely ill while Hernandez and Anton were in charge. Charles Kwasha, Jack Herman's brother-in-law and another partner in Jockey Holdings, died in May at age 90.

The Hermans' comments on the brief reign of George Hernandez are often oblique, though at the mention of Eddie Anton's name the family moans in unison. "He scared me to death," says Stephanie. "I don't think I can comment on him. His behavior was very ... erratic."

Jack Herman, a smallish, tanned man in a bright yellow polo shirt, is more willing to talk about the group of potential new owners for the Jockey Club, who entered the picture in mid-February, shortly before the nearly canceled South Florida magazine party. The principal figure in this new group was Trinidadian businessman Karl C. (or K.C. or Casey) Langford, who came down from Washington, D.C.

"We were introduced to K.C. Langford by a reputable person who lives in Washington. He seemed very credible," Jack Herman says. "He knew a lot of people; he surrounded himself with very prominent people." These people, Herman continues, included several possible investors who expressed interest in both the club and the Lear School property next door.

Herman says Langford, much like Hernandez before him, entered into a licensing agreement with the Herman group toward the end of February, under which he would operate the club with the intention of eventually buying it.

"He fooled everybody," Herman says. "He brought in economists from Washington, resort developers from Texas, California, Japanese architects, developers, construction people. The people were real; we've since heard that they were fooled, just like we were."

Holdovers from Hernandez's team quickly realized that the switch to Langford was not going to be the panacea the Hermans hoped for. "The really miserable times started after [Hernandez and Anton] left, with this K.C., the scum of the earth, a no-good son of a bitch," says food and beverage director Miguel Aston. "If I ever saw him, I don't know what I'd do."

Aston recalls that Langford and his assistant, Susan Fletcher, simply weren't paying anyone for anything -- vendors or employees. "His checks that were bouncing around, it didn't matter to him whatsoever," Aston says. "Purveyors, they were owed thousands; everybody stopped delivering things. We couldn't even get the garbage picked up. He used to send people to buy the liquor illegally -- in the stores, that's illegal to sell in the bar. What he was trying to do, I think, was milk the place, because he was collecting all the dues from members, collecting revenues from the marina, collecting this, collecting that, and not using any money whatsoever for any purchases.

"I think the Hermans were against a rock and a hard place, you know? They had to go around with whoever it was because it was the only chance they had to have the thing open."

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