Craig Robins claims Ugo Colombo bribed juror with promise of condo in trial over private jet: lawsuit

The developers have been battling over the case for 9 years, with Colombo’s attorney calling Robins’ latest claims a “desperate effort” to avoid damages, which could reach $60M

Jan.January 07, 2019 05:50 PM

Ugo Colombo and Craig Robins (Credit: iStock)

The nine-year legal battle between two of Miami’s most prominent developers over a shared private jet just hit serious turbulence.

Five years after losing the case, Craig Robins’ Dacra Development is now suing Ugo Colombo and his CMC Group, alleging jury tampering and bribery — including the promise of a luxury condo — in the trial tied to their private jet dispute.

In a mid-December lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Dacra alleges the 2014 jury verdicts in favor of Colombo were “corruptly secured.” The suit claimed that Colombo and CMC tampered with and bribed one of the jurors, constituting fraud. Dacra was ordered to pay a total of $3 million, including $1.5 million for Colombo’s attorney’s fees. Robins’ CL36 Leasing LLC also was ordered to pay about $28,000.

Colombo’s attorney, Jesse Dean-Kluger, called the suit a “patently false claim” and Robins’ “latest desperate effort” to avoid a possible $50 million to $60 million compensatory and punitive damage liability, according to a memo in the court file.

Robins is “simply trying once more to avoid accountability,” Dean-Kluger told The Real Deal.

In the memo, he called the court complaint “a Hail Mary lawsuit” that is “patently a fraud and the lawyers for Dacra and Robins know it.” He cited its timing, before the upcoming trial for punitive damages. That trial date is not yet confirmed.

Attorneys for Robins, who is spearheading the redevelopment of the Miami Design District, have repeatedly said Dacra has no assets, and that Robins is not personally liable, according to Dean-Kluger’s memo.

Robins’ attorney, Andrew Berman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The suit alleges that the juror — who was named in the filing — was contacted by Colombo or CMC employees during the 2014 trial, and accepted the bribe. According to the suit, the juror was offered an unspecified cash payment and the promise of a condo in a high-rise project Columbo was building — valued as high as $1 million — if he guaranteed that Colombo and CMC would win the case.

Colombo is developing Brickell Flatiron, a 64-story, 549-unit condo tower at 1001 South Miami Avenue.

The lawsuit claims the juror needed a loan to purchase a $6,000 car before the trial, but three weeks after it ended, paid nearly $27,000 in cash to purchase a used truck.

According to the suit, the juror has since admitted to the illicit contact and the promised benefits “to a third party,” in an affidavit. The suit did not name the person the juror allegedly admitted to, but that the information could be presented to the court.

The suit asks the court to vacate the $3 million in judgments against Dacra and require Colombo and CMC to repay any money received, as well as require them to pay attorney fees and award Dacra damages, fees, and costs.

The case dates back to 2010, when Dacra and CL36 Leasing filed suit against Colombo and CMC Group, alleging that Colombo had agreed to buy half of his $22 million Bombardier Challenger corporate jet, but failed to do so. Colombo countersued, alleging Dacra failed to pay its share of the plane’s maintenance and purposely caused a default on a loan used to buy the aircraft.

In 2014, a Miami-Dade jury awarded Colombo $2 million stemming from his legal fight with Dacra. That amount was reduced to $1.5 million later that year. Dacra appealed the jury verdict to the Third District Court of Appeals, but the court affirmed the verdict in 2016. Colombo and CMC then filed motions for attorney’s fees, resulting in the additional $1.5 million judgment in 2017.

Robins lost his latest appeal, before the Florida Supreme Court, to avoid a trial on punitive damages claims. In August, an appellate court had also denied a petition by Robins to prevent Colombo from seeking punitive damages in the long-running litigation.

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