Nevin Shapiro and his Coral Gables attorney, Maria Elena Perez, have the national media eating out of their hands these days. Shapiro is trying to bring down UM's football program, and Perez -- who's not in jail -- has helped him by making TV appearances. But the pair wasn't all that happy last December when New Times published its own investigation of Shapiro's Ponzi scheme and sordid South Beach life.
As the world argues about Shapiro's credibility, it's worth considering that he sent us one of the most absurd lawsuit threats we've ever received. It argues that the convicted Ponzi schemer was actually a "successful businessman," that we cast Miami in a "negative light," and that we were just not very nice to a guy busted for stealing millions of bucks.
Perez never returned multiple phone calls or emails from New Times while we reported our story on Shapiro, but the day after it ran, she sent our attorney Steve Suskin her gem of a complaint.
Here's the second half of the run-on sentence she uses to open the letter:
"In my opinion, New Times is not a newspaper or even a leaflet, as it offers nothing which is noteworthy, newsworthy or reliable, and it similarly serves to cast Miami, the city which generates income for New Times, in a negative light when it refers to South Florida as a Ponzi capital and when it describes the 'black depths of Biscayne Bay.'"
Uh, OK. The combination of Bernie Madoff, Scott Rothstein, Allen Stanford, and Shapiro doesn't equal Ponzi Capital USA? And Biscayne Bay is kinda deep!
Perez goes on to argue that Shapiro didn't bilk investors of $880 million (the size of the Ponzi he pleaded guilty to constructing in September 2010), but in fact "lost" only $79 million. And it was his Ponzi victims' fault in the first place!
"An estimated $56 million went to pay the usurious loans which were being made by some of the alleged victims who... were driven by greed," she writes.
In fact, Perez writes, Shapiro was a nice, successful grocery diverter until a "series of unfortunate events" forced him to "be creative with his business."
We're sure the judge loved that reasoning when he sentenced Shapiro to 20 years of hard time for his financial "creativity."
It goes without saying: We stood by our story, and we still do.
Here's the full letter from Perez, plus a response from Suskin, who reassures her that in fact New Times is a real newspaper and that author Tim Elfrink does in fact exist: