| Columns |

Lawsuit Claims Opa-locka Slumlord Stole Thousands While Tenants Died

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Residents at Opa-locka's Gardens Apartments -- perhaps the city's sketchiest property -- endured 5 murders, 656 assaults, 34 robberies, 25 shootings, and 80 stolen cars during one four-year stretch, according to police records. 

And the apartments remain the hottest spot in the city for cops, says Capt. Rex Galindo, a spokesman for Opa-locka Police. "It generates constant calls, for domestic disturbances, loud music, burglaries, drug activities, everything," he says.

​Now the lawyers representing one of the men killed there claim in a lawsuit that owner Dilip Barot fed the violence by pocketing $150,000 every year in taxpayer money earmarked for security. 

The evidence was strong enough to convince a circuit court judge last week to allow the lawyers to ask a jury for punitive damages.

"Envision the worst slumlord you've ever seen or heard about, take away any redeeming factors they may have, and you've got Dilip Barot," says Christopher Marlowe, one of the lawyers suing Barot and his company, Creative Choice Homes II.

Barot, an Indian-born businessman, bought the now-39-year-old complex in 1992 for $538,000. The shabby collection of two-story apartments sits behind a junkyard a few blocks south of Opa-locka Boulevard. 

The federal government soon began subsidizing the apartments through a program for poor residents, called Section 8. And the property's value rose. This year, it's worth $8.3 million, public records show.

But by all accounts, residents didn't benefit much. While Barot maintains a $13 million mansion in Palm Beach, former Opa-locka Police Chief James Wright tells New Times: "Conditions there... bring tears to my eyes."

On December 9, 2007, Donta Gordon, a 31-year-old resident, was shot dead in his doorway. Six months later, Gordon's relatives sued, alleging that lax security -- a lack of guards, lighting, gates, and patrols -- led to his murder. 

Recently, Marlowe and his colleagues obtained letters Barot wrote to HUD; they indicated his company received $38 from the federal government per resident for security.

Two weeks ago, Marlowe's team argued before circuit court Judge Maxine Cohen Lando that Barot never used the money to improve security. 

While a jury will have to decide the answer, a reporter found no guards on duty last week. The gate to the complex was open, and all apartments were easily accessible. "I ain't seen any security here," said a woman who declined to give her name. "Do you see any guards around?"

Barot's attorney, Michael Bland, didn't return a call for comment.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.