Soccer Legend Maradona Says Ex-Wife Stole His Money to Buy Miami Beach Condos

Diego Maradona: the man, the myth, the infamous cocaine user, the probable friend to Italian mobsters, the guy who got extremely drunk at the 2018 World Cup and had to be carried away by handlers — the legend. Like many of the athletes deemed the "greatest ever" in their chosen sports, Maradona's post-football life has been bizarre, from hosting an absurd Argentine TV talk show, to getting fired from coaching the Argentinian national soccer team, to now suing his ex-wife in Miami-Dade County court on claims she stole his money and bought a whole bunch of South Florida properties with the cash.

Maradona first sued his ex-wife, Claudia Villafañe, in Dade County court in December 2015. Villafañe has repeatedly tried to have the suit thrown out on grounds that Miami courts shouldn't have any say over alleged thefts in Argentina. But Miami's Third District Court of Appeal denied that claim yesterday, according to documents first reported by the Associated Press, ruling that El Pibe de Oro can proceed with the suit. Maradona is suing for fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims.

"Plaintiff is universally regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time," the first line of the lawsuit reads. "From November 7, 1989 to April 15, 2003, he was married to Defendant Villafañe and entrusted her to manage his financial affairs. Following their divorce, it became clear that the defendant had embezzled and/or misappropriated millions of dollars of [his] fortune for her own use."

Maradona claims his ex-wife created a network of at least five different shell companies in Florida that she used to buy real estate. The soccer legend says Villafañe flipped a few of the properties for cash. All of the shell companies, including the LLCs "Giamet," two named "Giamar," "Gia Dal Mar," and "Dalmar," seem to reference Maradona and Villafañe's daughters, Giannina and Dalma. The suit claims Villafañe began siphoning off the star's money in 1999, but that Maradona didn't notice until 2014 when he had his finances audited.

Villafañe responded in February 2016 with a blistering legal filing accusing the soccer star of punishing her out of spite.

"Maradona is jealous of his ex-wife's relationship with her boyfriend," Villfañe's legal team wrote. "He wants to punish her by claiming that everything she owns must belong to him." Her attorneys add that Maradona was "an informed, enthusiastic supporter" of her real-estate investments during their marriage and that the soccer legend even supported her investments after the pair divorced — until she found a new boyfriend.

But Maradonna's suit claims some of Villfañe's LLCs were formed at an office building adjacent to Tropical Park, and that the pair's daughters, ages 12 and 10 at the time, were listed as shell-company "vice presidents." Another LLC was headquartered at a building in Edgewater and allegedly listed Maradona as an agent without his consent.

Maradonna says his ex used those firms to buy a boatload of local real estate. In 2000, his suit claims, Villafañe bought multiple units at the Yacht Club at Portofino condominium tower on Alton Road in Miami Beach for more than $250,000 each. Maradona claims Villafañe sold one of those units on the very same day and made $46,300 in profit. Villafañe sold the second unit a year later and again allegedly made a small profit.

In 2002, Villafañe allegedly upped the ante and shelled out $715,900 for a condo at the Murano at Portofino building on South Pointe Drive. The suit claims she sold that unit for $1.8 million in 2011 and pocketed the proceeds.

The pair formally divorced in 2003, but Maradona claims his then ex-wife kept buying real estate, including two units at the Beach Club Three condo complex in Hallandale Beach — one for $565,000 in 2007, another for $825,000 in 2008. Another Miami Beach condo at the Met 1 building followed in 2009.

In 2016, Maradona — who said he was living in Dubai at the time — filed a court statement swearing that he had no idea Villafañe was allegedly siphoning money from his bank accounts the entire time. Maradona noted that he was having trouble obtaining a visa to enter the United States but would happily fly to the states to testify in the suit. He said Villafañe travels to Miami multiple times per year and has complained that Maradona acts like he "owns her" because their family lived off his soccer earnings and did not otherwise work. But he said he has no idea where she got the money to buy a bunch of Miami real estate.

"These transactions were never disclosed to me or authorized by me, and the proceeds or profits of the sales were never provided to me, but rather the entire scheme was concealed from me at all times," Maradona's 2016 statement reads. "To date, we have been unable to identify where the funds to purchase the condominiums were obtained and where the proceeds (in the millions of dollars) from the sale of four of the six condominium units that were sold were deposited. Notwithstanding, it was clear the funds were earned by me, and which Claudia was supposed to manage for my benefit."
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.