Feds look to seize Porsche Tower condo unit tied to $1B money laundering case

Prosecutors allege the $5M unit was used as compensation for illegal services

Porsche Design Tower, the flag of PDVSA and the Venezuelan flag
Porsche Design Tower, the flag of PDVSA and the Venezuelan flag

UPDATED, Aug. 7, 4:55 p.m.: Federal officials are seeking to seize a condo unit at Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach that they allege is tied to a $1 billion Venezuelan money laundering scheme.

Prosecutors allege the scheme laundered money out of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, and into fraudulent investments and Miami real estate. One deal allegedly involved was the $5.3 million purchase of unit 2205 at Porsche Design, a 132-unit, 60-story luxury condo tower built by Dezer Development.

Federal officials are now seeking to seize the unit and recently filed a notice of lis pendens in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Andrew Ittleman, a partner at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph who focuses on white collar defense and money laundering, said filing a notice of lis pendens makes the property “impossible to sell until the resolution of the case.”

Paladium Real Estate Group LLC purchased the unit from the developer in January 2017, according to property records. State records show that the wife of the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining’s former legal counsel originally managed the LLC. Juris Magister, a Brickell law firm, is the registered agent.

In the initial indictment, federal prosecutors allege the former legal counsel, Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, discussed transferring the unit to an alleged Venezuelan money launderer, Jose Vincente Amparan Croquer, as compensation for his services. Amparan’s wife was added as a manager of the buyer’s LLC in September 2016. A year later, Urdaneta’s wife was removed, “leaving Amparan in control of Paladium and the condominium,” according to the indictment.

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In a statement provided to The Real Deal, Dezer Development cited the Fair Housing Act and other laws that “require us to sell to buyers that have the ability to sign a contract and send a deposit. We are precluded by these laws from conducting background searches or any action that would be deemed as discriminatory. We simply live in a society where we cannot choose our neighbors.”

Conspirators in the alleged scheme include former PDVSA officials and members of the Venezuelan elite, also known as “boliburgués.” Shortly after the indictment was filed in late July, the Miami Herald reported that Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro is under investigation by the U.S. government for his role in the alleged scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Ittleman said that when the federal government looks to seize an asset in a money laundering case, it is usually successful.

Dezer completed the beachfront tower in November 2016, and a number of owners have tried to flip their units since then. The building is known for its “Dezervator,” a patented car elevator that takes residents up to their units in their cars.