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Battle lost: Judge approves 36 foreclosures against Sixty Sixty Resort unit owners

Foreclosure auctions set for June
By Francisco Alvarado | February 23, 2018 02:30PM

(Photo illustration by Jhila Farzaneh for The Real Deal. Credit: Getty Images)

Lionel Gossaf arrived in Miami from Brussels on Wednesday evening to try to save his unit at a Miami Beach condo-hotel that has been at the center of an epic fight with the Port Orange, Florida-investment company Schecher Group.

But he learned he had already lost the battle.

Earlier that day, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko approved the foreclosure of Gossaf’s unit and 35 others in the Sixty Sixty Resort at 6060 Indian Creek Drive. Butchko had initially set a three-day trial in which Gossaf said he expected to make his case against a 2016 foreclosure lawsuit filed by Schecher Group, which alleges he failed to pay about $125,000 in assessments for repairs to Sixty Sixty’s hotel and common areas. Since 2016, Schecher had filed similar complaints against 65 unit owners.

“I was going to testify on the third day of trial,” Gossaf said. “But the judge changed the plan. I am very upset because I didn’t get the chance to defend my case. It is not fair.”

Through a spokesperson, Butchko declined comment citing judicial ethics rules that bar her from publicly commenting on rulings. Steven Davis, the attorney for Schecher, said Butchko ruled against the 36 unit owners because they lost standing in the foreclosure cases when they deeded away their property rights to an outside investor.

“My client is satisfied with the outcome,” Davis said. “It is important to note that these people bought their units and were having trouble before Schecher came into the picture.”

Butchko set foreclosure auctions on the 36 units for June. Schecher Group, whose principal Richard Schecher Sr. claims delinquent owners owe his company roughly $9.4 million in unpaid assessments, has previously acquired 10 units for which it initiated foreclosure proceedings. Davis said Schecher will likely bid on the 36 units. “I think so,” he said. “But it is a foreclosure sale so whoever wants to bid is entitled to bid.”

Since his company began filing lawsuits two years ago, Schecher Sr. has been accused by Sixty Sixty unit owners of attempting a hostile takeover of the condo-hotel. In a previous interview, Sixty Sixty Condominium Association President Maria Velez claimed Schecher engaged in unscrupulous tactics such as allegedly charging unit owners a 100 percent late fee and 18 percent interest for a $3,500 monthly assessment.

More recently, lawyers representing Gossaf, Velez and the other unit owners filed a motion to dismiss the foreclosure lawsuits that accused Schecher Sr. of committing fraud. The document alleges that at least 11 amended claims of liens filed by Schecher Group are “cut and paste forgeries and notary frauds.” However, Butchko dismissed the motion.

Gossaf, a French national who lives in Brussels, said he purchased his 10th floor unit in 2013 for $100,000 using savings from his pension. “I wanted to do a real estate investment in Florida because I wanted an asset in America and I thought it would be well protected,” Gossaf said. “And my family and I come quite often to Miami.”

He said he spent $11,000 to pay for attorney fees against the Schecher lawsuit and a pending bankruptcy filing by the condo association. He spent another $1,500 to travel to Miami for the three-day trial. “I was very upset and angry when I learned the judge foreclosed on all of us without hearing our defense,” Gossaf said. “This is not American justice.”