Things have gone sour for Banah Sugar. The fledgling, troubled Hialeah-based sugar company has filed for bankruptcy protection less than a year after city and county leaders renamed a local roadway "Banah Sweet Way" and promised to give the firm $400,000 in tax breaks if it hired 300 people.
On July 13 of last year, Hialeah and Miami-Dade elected officials -- including county Mayor Carlos Gimenez and county Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa -- joined Banah Sugar founder and owner Alexander I. Perez to celebrate renaming part of SE Tenth Avenue after his company. At the time, no one bothered to look into Perez's checkered past and a long trail of litigation against him.
For instance, city and county officials did not know that Perez is a convicted cocaine trafficker who served four years in federal prison until New Times brought this fact to their attention. At the time, Gimenez spokeswoman Suzy Trutie and Commissioner Sosa said Perez's conviction was a moot issue.
But Perez also engaged in questionable business dealings since he was released from prison.
As Hialeah and Miami-Dade County were giving him the star treatment, Perez was being sued by his former landlord for not paying his rent, by two vendors for not paying for containers and labels to pack his sugar, and by a bank that was owed $327,623 for funding his initial payroll costs. One of the vendors, All-American Containers, won a default judgment for $208,000 against Banah on October 25.
In January, five more lawsuits were filed against Banah and Perez, including an eviction complaint from his current landlord. Since our first article about the Banah debacle, New Times has been approached by at least a dozen former employees who claim they were paid sporadically or not at all. (Perez did not respond to a message left on his cell phone.)
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The bankruptcy was filed under Chapter 11, allowing Perez to reorganize his company and continue to manage its day-to-day operations. However, the bankruptcy court must make all the company's important decisions. Banah reported that it owed between $1 million and $10 million to a list of 232 people and companies, according to its February 21 bankruptcy filing.
According to El Nuevo Herald, Banah will not receive the $400,000 in tax breaks because it failed to create 300 jobs.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.