A South Beach Love Story

A playboy's steamy sexual liaison leads to a tangled investigation and a police feud

Police records show his past scrapes with the law had mostly to do with his excessive drinking. In the late 1980s police charged him with driving under the influence. The case was dismissed. In July 1997 police were called to his address because he was acting strangely, again after drinking too much. When the officers arrived, they found him passed out on the floor. Upon being awakened by them Zayden fled and jumped into Indian Creek. After he came ashore, his family sent him to the hospital.

The son of Lebanese developer Alfredo Zayden, he was born in Miami but raised in Spain for fourteen years. He returned here as a teenager, and dabbled in modeling. In 1985 he even achieved poster-boy status as "Mr. Love 94" for the romantic radio station Love 94 (WLVE-FM 93.9). A decade later he took over the art-framing business he had started in 1981 with his father and brother. The store has been lucrative and has built up a celebrity clientele including Sylvester Stallone and Paul Newman.

In 1990 Zayden bought a $338,000 home on Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach. After extensive renovation it became a columned mansion with a circular marble driveway. During construction in the early 1990s, police were called to the house eight times for everything from a lost beeper to a vandalized car. At one point an armed intruder scaled a wall that surrounded his property and stole a Rolex watch from Zayden's wrist while he was in the back yard.

The officer who responded to many of those calls was Charlie Seraydar. The stocky, well-groomed patrolman had once been a detective. But the long hours left him pining for the more regular routine of patrol work. So in 1989, after eleven years as a detective, he went back to wearing a uniform. Seraydar, who's partial to pinkie rings and gold bracelets, distributes his pager number to many people. "I call it community policing," he comments. "A thousand people have my pager number." One of them is Anwar Zayden.

Seraydar's only significant reprimand in 25 years as a cop came in 1991, when he admitted doing unauthorized work for an insurance company. (All outside police work must be approved by superiors. Seraydar failed to obtain a necessary signature.) Otherwise he has received heaps of praise from supervisors and others whom he's helped. He was the Beach force's officer of the year in 1979 and he's been chosen as officer of the month twelve times since 1976. In 1997 Detective Turner was just another name to Seraydar, but now he thinks he knows his fellow officer well. "[Turner] should be criminally prosecuted for what he did," Seraydar blasts.

Seraydar became involved in the case at 3:12 a.m. on September 20, when the insistent sound of his pager pierced his slumber. "I didn't recognize the number," he recalls. He returned the call and Drummond answered; he said Detective Turner was questioning Zayden and his cohorts about Nancy's claims.

"What should we do?" the would-be bodyguard asked.
"[Zayden] needs an attorney," Seraydar replied. Then he hung up and went back to bed.

During the next two days, Zayden's friends constantly called Seraydar's beeper and cell phone. The cop maintains he advised callers to talk to the playboy's defense lawyer or Turner. "I did whatever I could to avoid becoming involved in the case," Seraydar recalls.

On September 24, four days after the arrest, Zayden's friend Alex Perez again called Seraydar. He said Turner refused to see him. "I finally convinced [Perez] that ... he had to camp out in the police department until he found the detective," Seraydar comments.

Perez called back a few hours later. He claimed Turner had ejected him from the station. Seraydar was appalled. "I told Perez that if that's [Turner's] attitude, and he doesn't believe you, go to the State Attorney's Office." Perez went to see the prosecutors on September 30.

Only after the October 1 SAO meeting did Turner record his interview with Perez. Perez had stated he saw the couple before and after the alleged rape, and Nancy never appeared distraught or frightened. It is the first piece of evidence in the police file that buttressed Zayden's case.

Seraydar feared the investigation was being improperly conducted. So on September 28 he agreed to help Pat Franklin, a friend and former cop who Zayden hired as a private investigator.

Seraydar not only located a witness, cabbie Friedun Homayountash, for Franklin, but he helped the driver contact Zayden's lawyer, Neil Taylor. The officer acknowledges he knew his department might think the contact was out of line. "I was concerned that the detective on the case was not interviewing potentially exculpatory witnesses who showed up to give voluntary statements."

Homayountash provided explosive testimony. He claimed Nancy had confessed she was mad at Zayden for not paying her $5000 for "babysitting" him for two days. But there was a problem: Police wanted the cabbie on a domestic violence charge. Taylor helped him find a lawyer.

A few days later Seraydar testified as a character witness for Zayden after meeting with prosecutors. Michael Band, who headed the SAO's Major Crimes Unit, saw no conflict of interest in the patrolman's court appearance. Band later recounted the conversation in a memo: "Officer Seraydar was concerned that an innocent citizen had been arrested falsely by his department and that exculpatory information provided by witnesses was not being acted upon by investigators."

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