North Bay Village's mayor has some homestead issues. While claiming to reside in the island city, Corina Esquijarosa has been receiving a $25,000 homestead exemption on an apartment she rents to a man named Osmary Ramos. To get the tax break, Esquijarosa is required to live in the one-bedroom unit in the River Lofts Condominium at 1021 NW Third St. — not North Bay Village. She is certainly not allowed to lease the place either.
"It's just part of the tangled web of lies this gal has played," says part-time North Bay Village resident and civic activist Fane Lozman, whose dogged muckraking led to the arrest of four North Bay Village elected officials.
According to Lozman, Esquijarosa also omitted crucial information on her financial interests disclosure statement, including a foreclosure filed against her and her husband Manuel by SunTrust Bank. The Esquijarosas had stopped paying the $138,000 mortgage on a separate River Lofts condo they owned. The lender won a final judgment in May last year. What's more, Esquijarosa failed to disclose her homestead property, also in foreclosure.
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The mayor, who receives a $98,000 annual package as a senior project representative for Miami's Public Facilities Department, dismissed Lozman's criticism. Esquijarosa believed she didn't have to list the foreclosure because the property was auctioned before she filed to run. "I have since filed an amended financial disclosure form that lists the judgment," she says. "It wasn't intentional."
Esquijarosa, who moved to North Bay Village in February 2009, accuses Lozman of trying to provoke a confrontation. "I've read up on Mr. Lozman," she says. "I won't get sucked in."
Ramos says Esquijarosa's husband rented him the apartment the same month the mayor took office. "He charged me $675 a month and told me that it was not in foreclosure," Ramos says. "I subsequently found out that it is being foreclosed."
Lozman says Esquijarosa would not have won the election had she disclosed her lawsuits. The first-time political candidate won by six votes this past November. "As a city of Miami employee, she should know better," Lozman gripes. "She won by lying to the voters."