Ugo Colombo sues Craig Robins for defamation in ongoing legal battle

Suit is tied to allegations of jury tampering and bribery in nine-year dispute over shared private jet

Jan.January 24, 2019 05:30 PM

Ugo Colombo and Craig Robins (Credit: iStock)

Now it’s Ugo Colombo’s turn to sue Craig Robins.

In the ongoing legal battle between two of Miami’s most prominent developers over a shared $22 million private jet, Colombo is now seeking monetary damages, alleging that Robins and his attorney, Dennis Richard, made defamatory remarks that have hurt Colombo’s reputation.

In a new lawsuit filed Wednesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Colombo alleges that the suit filed last month by Craig Robins’ Dacra Development against Colombo and his CMC Group that alleged jury tampering and bribery tied to a 2014 jury verdict caused “serious damage to Colombo.”

Dacra had alleged 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.

The suit alleged 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 claimed 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 stated that the information could be presented to the court.

Yet Colombo’s latest lawsuit includes an affidavit from that juror, who says “the accusations are completely false. I was never approached by anyone during the [trial] and offered anything of value, including a bribe, cash or a future condominium.”

The suit also includes the 2016 findings of a Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office investigation into a complaint filed by Richard that alleged jury tampering and bribery during the 2014 trial. According to a “close out memo” on those findings, the juror agreed to be interviewed and provided documentation that showed the funds he used to buy the truck came from a family inheritance and his retirement account.

Robins’ attorney Andrew Berman declined to comment on the new suit. “As is our custom, we will let the papers we file in court and our arguments to the court speak for our clients. We fully expect to prevail in all aspects of the litigation,” he said via email.

Dacra’s suit had asked 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 Robins’ CL36 Leasing filed suit against Colombo and CMC Group, alleging that Colombo had agreed to buy half of a 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 also denied a petition by Robins to prevent Colombo from seeking punitive damages in the long-running litigation.

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