On Wednesday, New Times published "Treasure Island", the story of serious civil and criminal fraud allegations involving the Grandview Palace condo association in North Bay Village, the building's father-and-son developers, and an insurance provider accused of being a shell corporation.
That same day, the attorneys representing the insurance company and the developers -- Dr. Charles C. Edwards, a famed Baltimore spine surgeon; and his son James -- in the civil case filed their official defense in court.
For the most part, the filing is bogged down with cumbersome legalese. But the defense attorney, Alvin B. Davis, makes a few interesting arguments in his clients' defense:
- "The Association accepted and consented to the purchase of insurance
policies from Florida Mutual... The management company hired by the
Association issued the checks paid to Florida Mutual."
words, the condo association's members had a chance to do their research
beforehand and object to the Florida Mutual contract. They didn't.
Association has not suffered any damages. Florida Mutual offered to
defend the Association for any and all claims properly covered under
the Florida Mutual policies."
So even if the insurance company
wasn't licensed, according to state prosecutors in the criminal case,
Florida Mutual would've paid out all claims anyway. A document filed in
2006 claims the company paid $800 to a Grandview Palace tenant whose
car was allegedly damaged by a garage door -- but the plaintiff's
attorney, Aaron Cohen, says he "doubts" that payment was actually
- "Plaintiff alleges, at most, a breach of contract
action, for which claims of conversion, civil theft, conspiracy for
fraud, and aiding and abetting fraud are not actionable."
and Defendants were operating under a mistake of fact and/or law...
Defendant acted on and relied upon the advice of counsel."
This is perhaps the most compelling claim, and echoes what Attorney Davis told New Times:
that "[Florida Mutual's founders] received advice that state licensing
wasn't required. Davis wouldn't identify the origin of that advice,
though, and this document doesn't either. The claim contradicts a North
Bay Village Police report that had Vidal Sainz, a Miami insurance agent
listed as a managing agent for the company, saying he informed Dr.
Edwards that running an insurance carrier without a license
"constituted a felony."
- "The current non-developer members of
the Board of Directors of the Association are pursuing this action in
bad faith and with unclean hands."
Them's fighting words -- and an
echo of Davis's condemnation of the condo association's suit as "a
vendetta and a money-grab."
In related news, North Bay Village
Mayor Oscar Alfonso has weighed in with his opinion on the criminal
charges. As of now, only the insurance company as a corporation -- not Charles or James Edwards -- has
been charged with felonies, and Alfonso
agrees with state Rep. Julio Robaina that if a crime was commited,
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individuals need to be be charged. "It would be an awful precedent if
the State Attorney's Office said, 'Okay, give the money back and be
nice from now on,'" Alfonso says. "I'm not here to pass judgment, but if in fact they
created the insurance company for the purpose of defrauding the condominium association, they should be charged with a crime."