Judge: Don Peebles must pay Dora Puig $724K related to alleged fraud

New judgment includes interest, up from jury verdict of $423K last year

TRD MIAMI /
May.May 17, 2016 03:45 PM

UPDATED May 17, 6:10 p.m. After a 10-year legal battle, a judge has signed a final judgment ruling that developer Don Peebles must pay real estate broker Dora Puig $724,138 related to a fraud claim. That’s $300,000 more than a jury decided last year.

The ruling, by Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Sarah I. Zabel, is tied to the lawsuit Puig and her companies filed against Peebles and his company Collins Avenue Associates, LLC, in 2006. In the litigation, Puig had alleged that she should have received commissions from selling nearly $43 million of resale units as director of sales and marketing for the Residences at the Bath Club, which Peebles and his companies developed. 

Last year, a jury returned a verdict against Peebles, finding him personally liable for making fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions to Puig. The jury awarded her $423,120 in damages.

In the latest step, last month, Zabel signed a final judgment of $724,138 in favor of Puig, on her fraud claim against Peebles. The additional funds represent interest from 2005 until the jury verdict, plus interest since the jury verdict.

Peebles has a home in Coral Gables, splits his time between Miami and New York, and has considered running for mayor of New York in 2017. He posted a bond and is appealing the jury’s fraud finding. 

“We’re hoping that the Appellate Court affirms the jury’s verdict and does not allow Mr. Peebles to try to use a loophole to get out of his fraudulent acts,” Puig’s attorney, Michael J. Schlesinger, told The Real Deal.

Peebles’ attorney, Michael J. Higer of Berger Singerman, responded to a request for comment via email. “We are confident that the appellate court will follow and apply the applicable law to the facts and rule in favor of Mr. Peebles that there is no legal or factual merit to Puig’s claim against him,” Higer said.

Puig and her companies, the Puig Group,  and Dora Puig, P.A. were hired by Peebles in 2000 to be the director of sales and marketing for the then-yet to be built multi-million dollar luxury condominium project to be built at the The Bath Club on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Puig and her sales team proceeded to sell all but two units of the initial developer units, generating more than $170 million in sales, according to the suit.  

In 2004, Peebles, through his company, PADC Marketing, LLC, authorized Puig and the sales team to offer developer units for “re-sale” and charged the owners an additional 3 percent commission of the resale price for the services. The developer, Collins Avenue Associates, LLC, which was managed by Peebles, would charge an additional fee of 2 percent fee of the purchase price for any unit that it consented to be “assigned,” Schlesinger said.

Puig and the sales team sold 23 resales totaling close to $43 million. As the closings started in late November 2005, Peebles signed several checks representing the agreed-upon resale compensation for Puig and the sales team, the attorney said.

However, in mid-December 2005, Peebles directed his accounting department to recall all the resale payments and then took the position that Puig and the sales team were not entitled to any additional payment for these resales, according to Schlesinger. At the trial, the jury heard evidence that all of the resale commissions earned from the 23 resales, in excess of $1.2 million dollars, was paid directly to Peebles, said Schlesinger, who co-represented Puig, along with Heloiza Correa and Joshua Bochner, also of Schlesinger & Associates, and Hector J. Lombana of Gamba, Lombana, and Herrera.

Yet Higer said that Peebles was never Puig’s broker “and thus had no factual or legal responsibility to her for claimed commissions….. The promises to pay her for the claimed commissions was a promise made by Puig’s broker and not Mr. Peebles,” he said in his email.

Lombana in a statement, said that he “has never seen in his legal career such tactics used by a defendant to avoid paying what was earned.”

 

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