A politically connected Miami Lawyer
who's gained fame dispensing advice to Hispanic folks who are losing
their homes is in his own financial pickle. John H. Ruiz, who hosts
La Ley TV, a popular financial advice program on
Spanish-language GenTV, recently had his luxury cigarette boat repossessed. And he also owes more than $40,000 to
two firms that did some of the renovations at the baseball complex in
Homestead, which Ruiz took control of this past July in a deal with
But Ruiz insists his business ventures
are financially stable and that he is paying back his debts. "There
are no financial issues whatsoever," he says. "My companies are
Jumping off the success of his law firm and his television program, which he produces, Ruiz expanded into video production, thanks in part to his connections with prominent Miami politicians. Last February, Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado championed a one-year pilot program to use Ruiz's company La Ley Sports to film and broadcast student athletic events. According to state incorporation records, Ruiz is business partners with Angel Zayon, Miami's communications director and a close friend of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, in a company called La Ley Broadcasting School, which has produced segments featuring the mayor and his daughter.
In addition, Ruiz developed a relationship with Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman, who helped the attorney secure control over the baseball stadium, which has sat dormant for two decades ever since the Cleveland Indians reneged on making the facility the team's spring training home in 1992. The Homestead City Council agreed to turn over the 90-acre complex to La Ley Sports. In exchange, La Ley agreed to spend at least $1.7 million in renovations and $250,000 in naming rights. Ruiz is also required to pay for maintaining the facility and by the third year of the deal has to make annual rent payments of $275,000. At the end of the seven-year lease, Ruiz can buy the complex for $16 million.
Not a bad deal for a guy with no development or sports management experience.
In an interview with Banana Republican, Ruiz asserts he has not bitten off more than he can chew in trying to become a media and sports mogul. "My law firm and everything else I am doing is as strong as it has ever been," he says.
Although a lawsuit and liens against him suggest otherwise.
Last week, federal marshals seized his vessel on behalf of Banco Popular. In a complaint against Ruiz filed in Miami federal court, the bank alleges Ruiz failed to make monthly payments in September and November of last year, and only made partial payments in August, October, and December. Banco Popular claims Ruiz owes $216,120. He says the repossession was a misunderstanding. "Back in September I spoke with a bank officer about only making interest payments for the next six months because we were putting money into these other ventures," Ruiz says. "It wasn't communicated internally. I think they jumped the gun."
Ruiz says he spoke with lawyers from Banco Popular to clear things up and get his boat back. "By the way, I own four boats," he adds. Robert Maro, the Banco Popular vice-president of commercial lending who prepared the loan documents for the boat, did not return a message left on his office voice mail. The four attorneys representing the bank also did not respond to requests for comment.
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The repossession comes four months after Miami-based C&C Concrete Pumping Inc. and Pittsburgh's PPG Arcitectural Finishes Inc. filed two seperate liens on the sports complex alleging Ruiz has not paid them for work completed last April. The Miami firm claims it is owed $14,653, while PPG is looking to get paid $27,096. "We has some issues with our general contractor and some sub contractors didn't get paid," he says. "But we have fixed it and we've made arrangements to pay them what is owed."
Carlos Casteneda, credit manager for C&C Concrete, says Ruiz is on a three month payment plan. "He's paid $5,000," Casteneda says. "But he has $9,600 to go." We were unable to reach anyone from PPG.
Ruiz says La Ley Sports has spent almost $4 million in renovations for the baseball complex. But that the investment will soon pay off as he starts bringing in more sports events to the facility. "We've already built a solid after school program," he says. "We have 70 kids every day. It has been growing pretty rapidly."