By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In April they signed a prenuptial agreement that promised Romero a sliding scale of alimony payments in the event of divorce. If married less than two years, Romero would receive $75,000. Lewis planned a blow-out million-dollar wedding for May 27.
By then Lewis had hired a publicist, Dindy Yokel. Soon Romero and Lewis were found in the celebrity shots of the local magazines. "Once he met me, he started being more public about this whole “Who is Shawn Lewis, this new guy on South Beach,' thing. We were presented as a couple," Romero says.
About two weeks before the wedding, the betrothed planned a joint bachelor-bachelorette party. Lewis used two boats, one for men and one for women, to set sail for Bimini.
During the trip Romero's friends say Lewis became increasingly upset that the bride-to-be wasn't spending enough time with her man. (Romero can't talk about the trip.) "We didn't talk the whole time," Lewis says. "It was a really rude situation." On Bimini Lewis admits he was so upset, he left early in the smaller boat, which had carried the women to the island. "I left the big boat, the 80-footer, for her. They chose not to get on it."
But friends counter that Lewis kicked the women off the boat and made them find their own way home. After exploring the island, the women returned to find their luggage packed and waiting. They ended up spending the night in a hotel and then chartering a plane out of Opa-locka to fly them home.
Once they arrived in Miami, it was pretty clear the romance was over. Romero went to gather her belongings from Lewis's house. According to police records, a patrol car was called to the scene because Romero "needs help to retrieve the dog and property from the ex-boyfriend's house.... Ex-boyfriend won't let her in the house." With police watching Romero collected her clothes and her pet Pomeranian.
"I didn't want her to go," Lewis says, adding that he wasn't trying to prevent her from entering. "I was trying to convince her to stay."
The marriage was called off.
But a million-dollar wedding party doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't disappear overnight either. Nuptials or not, an extravagant feast -- including 800 oysters, four kilos of Beluga caviar, and rivers of champagne, midgets dressed as jesters, and women in mermaid costumes -- had all been paid for. Publicist Yokel convinced Lewis to throw the bash anyway.
On the guest list was a crew from the tabloid TV show Inside Edition, which had been gearing up for an episode that became, in the words of host Deborah Norville, "the million-dollar wedding with the surprise ending." Boxer Lennox Lewis showed up, as did O.J. Simpson. At one point Yokel called together the press, including John Buchanan, the Inside Edition team, and Sun-Sentinelcolumnist Jose Lambiet, who was there with his wife. Lewis confessed his heart was broken. "I was very much in love, but hey, things didn't work out," he told the camera. "It's very, very hard." When pressed on the reason for the breakup, he told the group he had caught Romero with another man and that she had taken money from him.
It was at this point that Lambiet asked Lewis whether he was for real. "To me it looked like a publicity stunt. I mean, his publicist had called me to invite me to this big shindig, and then they hold this press conference," Lambiet recalls. Lewis did not react well. Recounts Lambiet: "When I ask that, he goes off. He says, “I'm hurt; I'm hurt, man. She took my heart away.' Then he points to me and says, “Get this guy out of here.' I tell you, the guy's tightly wound."
Lambiet says he didn't like the looks of the beefy security guards escorting him out, so he grabbed a Miami Beach cop working crowd control to accompany them as well. "I didn't feel safe. The goon content there was very high," the writer recalls. "I've been to crime scenes at 2:00 a.m. in Brooklyn, and this was one of the most uncomfortable positions I've been in as a reporter."
The two made nice the following day, however, when Lewis beeped Lambiet and offered to bury the hatchet.
Less than a month later, Lewis also mended his broken heart when he and Romero reconciled. "I kept taking her back," he admits. "I wanted it to work." He told the Miami Heraldhe had wooed her back with "about $50,000 in roses." The couple married in a brief civil ceremony on June 22, and the newlyweds flew off to Puerto Rico.
At the time Lewis was fighting with his club partner Caputo, claiming that Caputo had defaulted on a loan. The clubs were held in Caputo's name. Lewis wanted them back under his control. The fight, though nasty, eventually was settled. Caputo, in what Lewis describes as a last dig, signed the clubs back to Romero, not Lewis, a move that the millionaire says legally fulfilled the settlement but was meant as a slight.
"What people don't understand is, I never wanted anything to do with the clubs. Never," Romero now says. "I've been on the Beach for years, and I'm over that scene."