Real Estate

It's Official: No Charges Against "Treasure Island" Players

In April, we brought you "Treasure Island", the story of big-time spine surgeon and developer Charles C. Edwards being accused of defrauding a North Bay Village condo building out of $233,000 that was supposed to go towards insuring the place.

In three sentences: in 2004, Charles and son James Edwards were two-thirds of the Grandview Palace's Board of Directors when the elder proclaimed to the building Condominium Association that he found an insurance company that would save the building thousands in premiums. What he didn't disclose is that the company, Florida Mutual Assurance, was founded by him that same day- and wasn't licensed to provide, you know, insurance. Perhaps more incriminating, two founding members of the corporation, a lawyer and an insurance agent, quit the day it was formed, with the agent explicitly warning Edwards that issuing insurance without a license "constituted a felony", according to a police report.

This all wasn't discovered until May, 2008, and this March, State Attorney's Office charged the company with organized fraud, grand theft in the first degree, and issuing insurance without a license -- indeed, all felonies.

Which is all well and good, but what about the players behind the company? Back then, State's Attorney hinted that they might never be charged, and Republican State Rep. Julio Robaina had lamented the precedent that might set:

"If you steal a car worth $233,000, you can bet you'll be charged with a felony. [This] sends a message to the rest of the country, saying, 'If you want to commit fraud, come to Miami-Dade County. The worst that will happen is you have to pay back the money you stole.'"

With the company's trial upcoming, it's official that the Edwardses will not be charged. Florida Mutual Assurance will face financial sanctions if convicted, but since it hasn't been active since 2005, it's unclear how it will be forced to pay, says Aaron R. Cohen, a lawyer representing the Condominium Association: "It would be a better use of the taxpayer's money if they refused to prosecute all together rather than prosecute a corporation that has no assets. It's basically a dissolved account. It's just a waste of time and resources."

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Gus Garcia-Roberts