Despite past crimes, Miami landlord gets grant to improve Liberty City shopping center

Miami-Dade County has given a commercial property owner with a checkered history $3 million to help reposition a rough Liberty City shopping center in hopes of attracting a national department store, the Miami New Times reported.

Yoram Izhak, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in Miami federal court in 2004 and to federal misdemeanor gun charges in 2003 when a loaded gun was found in his carry-on at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, was unanimously approved for the grant to repave roads, install new lights and add landscaping to the shopping center at NW 79th Street and 27th Avenue. Izhak owned the center’s parent company until last year, when he transferred it to his wife and business partners, the New Times said.

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The plan was originally sponsored by Commissioner Jean Monestime, but he couldn’t vote on the grant because of a conflict of interest between he and Izhak. The developer owns the company, M.I.A. Properties, that leases office space to Monestime.

Despite the conflict of interest and Izhak’s criminal history, Monestine said the deal was a good one for Miami. “The developer is investing $3 million in addition to the grant for a rundown property next to a poor community,” he said.