In November 2017, French investor Jean-Philippe Mango flew to Miami for a meeting with managers of Steinmauer Realty, a brokerage that was handling real estate investments on behalf of him and other French nationals.
During the pow-wow to discuss the pending sales of several properties Mango and his partners owned, he discovered a Pompano Beach condo his investment group bought in 2015 had been lost to foreclosure a year later, according to a recent lawsuit filed against the Bay Harbor Islands-based Steinmauer Realty, its related company Steinmauer Construction and its principals Adrian, David, Dominique, Julien and Sarah Haccoun. The family of real estate associates is also French.
Mango’s lawsuit alleges that Steinmauer Realty failed to find an existing mortgage on the property that was never paid and didn’t bother to get title insurance on it.
Before his trip to Miami, Mango claims, Julien Haccoun told him Steinmauer Realty sold the property in September 2017, but that the proceeds had been delayed because of Hurricane Irma.
Allegedly lying about the foreclosure is among the several shady shenanigans Mango claims the Haccouns pulled on him and his partners during the two-year period they managed his investment funds, the complaint states. Mango accuses the Haccouns of defrauding him and his partners for $8.3 million they invested in distressed condos and townhomes in South Florida.
Mango’s lawyer, Michael Nicoleau, did not respond to a request for comment, and Dorothy Negrin, the attorney representing the Haccouns and their companies declined comment. However, Adrien Haccoun dismissed Mangos’ lawsuit as frivolous.
“Mr. Mango is a well-seasoned investor,” Adrien Haccoun said. “He knows the risks and he made a lot of money on these deals. His funds have been successful and we have the documentation to back it up.”
According to the lawsuit, Mango attended a seminar hosted by the Haccouns in February 2015 in which they promoted that Steinmauer Realty and Steinmauer Construction specialized in acquiring, fixing up and settling any liens on distressed condos and townhomes that they subsequently put up for sale or for rent.
The Haccouns allegedly boasted that their firms provided integrated realty services that improved operational efficiency and reduced management expenses, as well as owned a proprietary investment software that provided them unique access to real-time data not accessible by lay real estate investors. The program also showed which properties they should bid on at foreclosure auctions that would produce the most profitable outcome, as well as whether to flip or rent the homes.
The Haccouns showed him a portfolio of 10 properties that provided an annual return of 25 percent and five other properties with a 22 percent annual returns, Mango claims.
“Because of the Haccoun’s French background and nationality, they benefited from a natural affinity with, and received trust from, French investors who could converse and transact with them in French,” the lawsuit states.
Mango and his partners set up six limited liability companies to make real estate investments in Florida that would be managed by the Haccouns. Initially, the relationship was running smoothly. When Mango received the first progress report from the Haccouns, it showed prospective returns of 24 percent for properties his funds purchased to flip, and it showed a 10 percent return rate on properties bought for rentals, the complaint states.
But by the time Mango received a sixth and final progress report, the investments had severely soured. “Many units that had been reported as profitable were suddenly reported as unprofitable,” the lawsuit claims. “More importantly were the reasons why the units were no longer profitable: Renovation costs spiked and resale price estimates plummeted.”
Correction: A previous headline for the story had an incorrect amount for the alleged fraud.