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Embezzlement allegations cloud 2016 deal for development site in Pompano Beach

Seller is suing buyer and Akerman related to $200k in escrow funds
By Francisco Alvarado | November 29, 2017 01:00PM

The gas station at 2789 East Atlantic Boulevard (Credit: Google Maps)

Nineteen months after an 80,000-square-foot shopping center and gas station in Pompano Beach traded hands for $14.8 million, the seller is accusing the buyer and a prominent law firm of participating in an embezzlement scheme involving $200,000 in escrow funds.

New Atlantic Properties of Delaware LLC sued Amkin Atlantic Square LLC and Akerman LP in Miami-Dade Circuit Court earlier this month for breaching the escrow agreement, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, aiding aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting conversion.

“We intend to pursue all avenues against the parties involved until our client is made whole,” said New Atlantic’s lawyer Michael Bernstein.

An Akerman spokesman and Amkin representatives did not return emails and phone messages seeking comment.

Amkin paid $13.1 million for the Atlantic Square retail center at 2600 East Atlantic Boulevard and $1.7 million for the gas station at 2789 East Atlantic Boulevard in a deal that closed on March 1, 2016, according to Broward County property records. Located one block west of the Intracoastal Waterway, the properties could be redeveloped into a mixed-use project based on rezoning approved by Pompano Beach.

The lawsuit involves only the sale for the gas station, which included an escrow agreement for $1.7 million to cover early lease termination payments to Atlantic Square tenants and other costs associated with shutting down the properties. Akerman was the escrow agent and the total amount of the transaction was $2.4 million.

The lawsuit alleges that Amkin and Akerman executed an amendment to the escrow agreement with Yuri Gurfel, a nominal investor in New Atlantic without any rights to act on behalf of the company. The amendment authorized Gurfel to receive two separate $100,000 payments from the escrow fund in September and December of last year, New Atlantic alleges.

Yet, Akerman did not inform New Atlantic and its lawyers about the $200,000 paid to Gurfel until Feb. 1 when the seller had negotiated a lease termination with the last tenant and was ready to conduct a second closing, the lawsuit states. A month later, New Atlantic and its attorneys demanded that Akerman recoup the money from Gurfel, but the law firm has refused to do so, the complaint alleges.

In addition, Amkin is refusing to release additional monies for an environmental cleanup of the Pompano Beach gas station site per the agreement, New Atlantic claims in the suit.