A fight over commission from the $18.2 million sale of five North Miami apartment buildings to an NFL star last year has turned into a bench-clearing brawl involving a tangle of brokerages.
Six months after broker Gerly Laine and her Miami Gardens-based firm Elite Celebrity Realty dropped its lawsuit against San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Elvis Dumervil and Westchester-based Star Realty & Investment Group for allegedly trying to keep her from collecting the commission, a new complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court is challenging another brokerage’s claim to the percentage fee.
In the Nov. 20 lawsuit, Star Realty accuses Aventura-based Beachfront Realty and its owner Edward Roberts of trying to steal the commission by filing a bogus request for arbitration through the Miami Association of Realtors.
Star’s owner, Realtor Emily Echavarria, claims she began representing Dumervil and his company, Global Prestige Estates LLC, sometime after March 7, 2016, to assist in his search for investment properties. Star was the brokerage listed as the buyer’s representative on a purchase and sale agreement executed on May 26, 2016, between Global Prestige and Econo-Malls Limited Partnership #17, the seller that is an affiliate of Canada’s Econo-Malls Management Corp.
Dumervil’s company bought five low-rise and mid-rise apartment buildings totaling 233 apartments at 1525 Northeast 125th Street, 13020 Northeast Sixth Avenue, 13055 Northeast Sixth Avenue, 14050 Northeast Sixth Avenue and 400 Northeast 137th Street.
Laine signed the agreement as a witness, according to a copy of the document filed with Star’s lawsuit. However, Laine emailed Echavarria sometime in July 2016 claiming she brokered the transaction on Dumervil’s behalf and that she was entitled to the commission, Star’s suit alleges.
Laine, who sued both Dumervil and Star on Aug. 24, 2016, previously said that the pro football player brought her on board to move along his transaction, which was in jeopardy of falling through. She also sued Econo-Malls, as well as the seller’s brokerage, Marcus & Millichap.
Laine claimed she and Dumervil had an oral contract, that she took up negotiations on his behalf, found him a new attorney and helped bring the two parties to an agreement. But a law firm representing Star hit her with a cease-and-desist letter just weeks before the deal was set to close stating she was interfering with the brokerage’s contract to negotiate the apartment deal on Dumervil’s behalf, Laine’s lawsuit said.
On June 21, Laine and Elite filed a voluntary dismissal in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, according to court documents. Then, just five days later, Roberts of Beachfront Realty began his efforts to claim the commission, Echavarria alleges. On June 26, he submitted his arbitration request to the Miami Association of Realtors, claiming Laine was actually working for his firm and that her license was registered with Beachfront from April 3, 2013, through July 15, 2016, according to a copy of a statement he wrote that is included in Star’s lawsuit.
Roberts asserted that the purchase and sale agreement was executed while Laine was still with Beachfront and that his company should be paid the commission. “With some difficulty, I was able to make Gerly’s attorney understand that Gerly had no standing to file a lawsuit for the collection of a commission and was able to have the lawsuit voluntarily dismissed,” Roberts wrote. “Thus the delay in filing the request for arbitration. I only became aware of the issue a month ago.”
Roberts further alleges that Dumervil found the properties on his own and turned to Laine when Echevarria stopped returning his phone calls about a month before the May 26, 2016, purchase and sale agreement was signed. He also accused Echavarria of forging Dumervil’s signature on a confidentiality agreement to use as proof with the listing agent that Star represented Global Prestige.
In its complaint, Star alleges Beachfront has no standing to arbitrate the commission because the company missed a 180-day deadline to file its request.
Roberts and Yelina Angulo, the lawyer for Star, declined to comment.
Dumervil’s lawyer noted that his client is longer involved in the ongoing litigation and he declined to speak to the forgery allegation.
“Those are allegations and that is why they are going to arbitration,” said attorney Carlos Garcia Perez. “We don’t have anything to say about that because our involvement in the case is over.”