For the second time in two years, hotelier John Yanopoulos is facing accusations of duping a high-profile pal out a six-figure sum.
This time it’s former NFL running back Julius Jones, who claims Yanopoulos stiffed him for $300,000 five years ago and hasn’t paid it back, according of a recently filed lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Jones joins Magic City Casino co-owner Isadore Havenick, who sued Yanopoulos in 2016 for allegedly welching on a $500,000 loan.
Jones’ lawyers Richard Segal and Jamie Zuckerman of the Miami-based firm Segal Zuckerman said Yanopoulos took advantage of his friendship with Jones. “John violated Julius’ trust and friendship,” Segal said. “He never imagined that John would stop returning his calls. It’s unfortunate it had to come to this.”
Yanopoulos could not be reached. His phone numbers listed in court documents have been disconnected. And he did not respond to a message sent to his company Y-Group’s general email address.
Dino Galardi, the attorney defending him in the lawsuit brought by Havenick, said his client is interested in negotiating a settlement with Jones. “It was an agreement between friends that got out of hand,” Galardi said. “I just got off the phone with his attorney and we should have something worked out in the next two weeks.”
The co-developer of W Fort Lauderdale, Yanopoulos and his partner sold the property to a company headed by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in 2014. Jones — who played for the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints from 2004 through 2011 — was having dinner with his wife at Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale one evening in 2009 when Yanopoulos sent a bottle of champagne to their table, the lawsuit states.
At the time, the Joneses were staying at the hotel for a three-month vacation in Florida.
After introducing themselves to one another, Jones and Yanopoulos began a friendship that morphed into a business relationship shortly after the pro athlete moved to Florida permanently following his retirement, according to the complaint.
Jones alleges that Yanopoulos paraded him and his wife around to charity, sporting and other social events, using his prominent status as a professional athlete to garner goodwill in attempting to secure investments from others within their circle and community.
Then in 2012, Yanopoulos hit Jones up for a $500,000 loan after learning the football player had not made any investments since his retirement, the lawsuit states. Yanopoulos allegedly claimed the money would be invested in a company called Euro Interiors Inc. He took Jones on a tour of a warehouse to show off furniture, fixtures and equipment Euro Interiors would be selling.
“Yanopoulos brought up this furniture company to Julius,” Zuckerman, Jones’ other attorney, said. “He pitched it as a secure investment and something Julius should put his money into.”
However, Yanopoulos missed a September 2013 deadline to satisfy the loan and it took him another two years to pay back $200,000, Jones alleges. To date, Yanopoulos has not repaid the balance, yet was able to purchase a $3.1 million mansion in Pinecrest in March 2017, according to the suit.
Havenick made similar accusations in the lawsuit his company Southwest Florida Enterprises filed against Yanopoulos. Havenick alleges he was friends with Yanopoulos for many years when he and Leon Reitnauer, another casino executive, were invited to participate in the purchase of a two-story mixed-used apartment building with ground floor retail at 1040 South Miami Avenue for $33 million.
After loaning Yanopoulos $500,000 for a deposit, Havenick claims the hotelier “became increasingly difficult to contact and never provided Havenick with any evidence to confirm his ownership interest in the property,” the lawsuit states. The deal never went through and Yanopoulos did not repay the loan, Havenick alleges.
In court documents responding to the lawsuit, Yanopoulos claims the $500,000 was not a loan, but rather an investment that came with risks. Galardi said the Havenick lawsuit, which was dismissed then re-filed in 2017 as an amended complaint, has no merit.