The Real Deal Miami

Developer battles with troubled partners on North Bay Village condo project: lawsuit

Defendants were also hit with other suits and an SEC action that they settled
By Paul Brinkmann |
Research by Haru Coryne
March 12, 2019 04:00PM

Javier Lluch and 7940 West Drive in North Bay Village (Credit: Zillow)

Miami developer Javier Lluch, known chiefly for his planned Glasshaus boutique condominium development in Coconut Grove, is continuing to fight a five-year battle against investment partners he recruited for a new project that stalled in North Bay Village.

Lluch filed his second lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month over the planned luxury condo project, known only as 7940 West Drive for its address in North Bay Village.

Lluch, president of Element Development, alleges that his partners Ernesto Weisson, Roberto Cortes and Fernando Haberer defrauded him, lied about their companies’ financial condition and went behind his back to purchase the North Bay Village property without compensating him for development services.

Attempts to reach the defendants or their attorneys were not successful.

The same defendants are facing a bigger, ongoing lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging they were responsible for a $40 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded several family members of the late Alejandro Romay — known in Argentina as the czar of television. The bigger suit has only just reached a point where several defendants have filed initial motions to dismiss it.

Haberer worked as a financial adviser on the Romay family’s investments before getting involved in the North Bay Village project, according to court documents.

Cortes and Weisson were previously hit with a cease and desist order in 2016 by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with their companies. According to federal court records, Cortes and Weisson settled with the SEC on charges they violated U.S. law by failing to make adequate disclosures to investors regarding the financial condition of one of their companies, Biscayne Capital International LLC. BCI was hit by financial fallout during the Great Recession and Weisson and Cortes have pleaded in court cases that they were victims of the recession. But the Romay family has accused them of mounting a Ponzi scheme to cover up their financial woes.

In the Romay lawsuit, the defendants have argued that they were only officers or investors in BCI and were not liable for the actions or financial condition of the company. According to a report from Tribune 242 news in the Bahamas, BCI has since been liquidated on order of the Securities Commission of the Bahamas.

The North Bay Village property is still undeveloped, according to property records. 7940 West Drive LLC, led by Gustavo Trujillo, paid $4 million for the property in 2015, records show. Lluch was the operating manager of the entity when it was formed in 2014.

Other litigation is pending against the project. Ecuadorian citizen Juan Javier Cordovez has also sued Weisson and Cortes, alleging he has the right to foreclose on the property due to a loan he made on the project of $567,000. In that case, Cortes recently filed a notice that he is defending himself pro se — without an attorney.

In 2015, a judge ordered the companies associated with the defendants to pay Lluch $3.2 million in damages for similar issues.