Contractor Sues Developer Moishe Mana, Says He's Using "Trump Tactics"

Moishe Mana owns the Mana Wynwood convention complex, which hosted this month's III Points Festival.
Moishe Mana owns the Mana Wynwood convention complex, which hosted this month's III Points Festival.
Photo by Amadeus McCaskill

This past July, Miami developer Moishe Mana — the largest landowner in Wynwood — launched a public campaign against Donald Trump. He claimed the billionaire is a joke and that no businessman in New York City, Mana's other hometown, takes Trump seriously. Mana pledged to donate $1 million to a charity of Trump's choosing if the presidential candidate released his tax returns.

But one South Florida-based contractor says Mana is a hypocrite: Carl Fortney claims Mana has refused to pay him for $500,000 in work, six months past its due. Yesterday Fortney filed suit against Mana's companies in Miami-Dade County Court.

"I've come to the conclusion that the only things different between him and Trump are the bad hair and the spray-tan," Fortney tells New Times.

But Mana insists it was Fortney who was the difficult client.

"This is crazy," Mana says. "We got into a crazy situation with this guy. This guy was not acting in good faith with us. We have hundreds of people we work with, many businesses. We do work in New Jersey and everywhere in the country with no problems. This was a special one."

According to his lawsuit, Fortney's company, the California-based Tashcon Corporation, entered into contracts with five firms owned by Mana. In all, Tashcon says, Mana owes the company $534,976. Tashcon sued each firm for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Fortney says the dispute stems from work at the former MacArthur Dairy site in the city of Miami. Fortney says there turned out to be a gigantic store of "bunker oil" — thick, nasty, and tarlike — bubbling up from the ground under the construction site. Obviously, it had to be removed. So Fortney says a geologist wrote up a plan to remove the oil, and Tashcon then hired an environmental contractor to remove the contaminated dirt.

But when Fortney's company began digging, he says, there ended up being far more oil than anyone anticipated.

"There was so much more contamination down there than they could possibly imagine," Fortney says. "So they have us stop, and we're waiting and waiting and waiting." Eventually, Fortney says, someone told him to fill over the land, which he initially refused to do.

"You watch the water, and you can see this thick, black bunker oil bubbling up," Fortney says. "I'm like, are you guys crazy?"

Since then, Fortney says, he's repeatedly contacted the Mana organization and asked for his money or for sit-down meetings with Mana himself or his brother Shimon Mana. Fortney forwarded multiple email threads between himself and Mana's lawyer, David Lederman, to New Times.

Though Mana agrees that his company refused to pay Fortney, he says his companies "totally disagree with the bill and the kind of work he did. It's ridiculous what happened there. We will deal with this, and I support my people very much. If it goes to court, we’ll go to court." 

In both New York City and Miami, Mana is a huge developer with an outsize character. In the coming years, Mana plans to turn 9.7 million square feet he owns in southwest Wynwood into a microneighborhood, complete with 24-story towers and a host of shops, art galleries, and restaurants. He recently built a similar complex in Jersey City, minutes from Manhattan by train.

But in August, Wynwood's Business Improvement District accused Mana of using "bait-and-switch" tactics to avoid donating money to a Wynwood neighborhood-improvement initiative.

Elsewhere in Miami, Mana has built scores of luxury properties. Decades ago, he emigrated from Tel Aviv, Israel, and worked as a dishwasher in New York City. He then founded a small moving-truck company, which later exploded into one of the largest moving companies in the Northeast. He parlayed that money into real-estate development.

Mana has been an outspoken Trump opponent — he compared the Donald to Benito Mussolini, Fidel Castro, and Adolf Hitler in July — Fortney says the pair's business tactics aren't all that different. Trump is famous for refusing to pay clients for work he doesn't like and driving contractors into bankruptcy in the process. Trump has reportedly been sued more than 3,500 times.

Fortney says he wishes he could sit Mana down and say, "You’re doing exactly what he does." But he says Mana representatives have canceled multiple meetings with him.

"He’s doing to me exactly what Trump is doing to businesspeople," Fortney says.

Here's the complaint:

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