Paraiso Bayviews condo owner sues mortgage firm owned by broker featured on “Million Dollar Listing Miami”
Veronica Aguilar Garrido alleges Michael Internoscia and Devstar Group engaged in fraud and deceptive practices
A unit owner at Paraiso Bayviews is accusing a mortgage company owned by a semi-celebrity Miami broker and Miami-based Devstar Group of attempting to force her into paying $100,000 in illegal late fees for falling behind on her payments, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
Paraiso Ocean LLC, a company owned by Veronica Aguilar Garrido, is suing International Mortgage Capital Fund I in Miami-Dade Circuit Court for breach of contract, fraud and deceptive practices. It’s an attempt to stop the foreclosure sale of unit 307 in the 44-story tower at 501 Northeast 31st Street. Garrido’s entity bought the studio for $560,900 in 2018, records show.
Last month, a Miami-Dade judge granted a $519,292 foreclosure judgment in favor of International Mortgage Capital Fund I. An auction sale is scheduled for April 18.
Corporate records show the mortgage company is owned by Devstar principals George Helmstetter and Anthony Burns, as well as Michael Internoscia, a real estate agent and mortgage broker who was featured in a 2014 episode of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing Miami.” M&M Private Lending Group, another company owned by Internoscia, is also named as a defendant in Garrido’ entity’s lawsuit. Garrido claims she fell behind on her mortgage payments due to financial woes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the complaint states.
Internoscia told The Real Deal that Garrido’s entity’s lawsuit is completely inaccurate. “When people default on a mortgage, they hire attorneys to come up with every possible excuse,” Internoscia said. “The foreclosure was filed way before Covid even started. We tried to resolve this matter six or seven different times.”
Internoscia referred further questions to Brian Kopelowitz, the lawyer for International Mortgage Capital Fund I. Kopelowitz did not respond to a phone message and an email seeking comment.
According to the March 2020 foreclosure lawsuit, M&M Private Lending Group provided Garrido’s Paraiso Ocean with a $360,685 loan in 2018. The proceeds were used to finance the purchase of the 1,069-square-foot studio at the 386-unit condo building in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood.
M&M transferred the loan to International Mortgage Capital Fund I, and Garrido’s Paraiso Ocean defaulted on the mortgage when it stopped making payments in August 2019, the complaint states.
Garrido’s Paraiso Ocean complaint, filed in January, alleges Garrido fell behind on her payments as a result of the pandemic. “However, plaintiff took all available precautions and steps to attempt to mitigate this matter, but International Mortgage Capital Fund I would not budge,” the lawsuit states. “When Plaintiff was ready to make her payments and make due on her arrearage, International Mortgage Capital Fund I requested an additional $100,000.00 in penalties in order to reinstate the note.”
The $100,000 request violates state law, Garrido’s Paraiso Ocean alleges.
Garrido, who has lived in her Paraiso Bayviews studio since buying it, disputes Internoscia’s version of events. She said she did fall behind on her payments in 2019 after she was forced to leave the unit when a plumbing pipe broke and caused extensive damage to her condo.
“I had to pay rent, the mortgage and the expenses to renovate my apartment,” she said. “Even with all that going on, I was able to bring all my payments current [in 2020].”
Garrido, who said she has receipts for all her loan payments, including ones paid in cash, alleges that the lenders wanted her to sign a document reinstating the mortgage. It contained a clause that she would have to surrender the unit if she made another late payment, she said.
“I refused to sign,” Garrido said. “They filed the foreclosure lawsuit right before everything shut down because of the pandemic.”
Garrido, who is from Ecuador, said she found other irregularities from the moment she decided to purchase the studio. While she made a $250,000 down payment, she was unable to qualify for a conventional loan, Garrido said. “The idea was I would get this hard money loan from M&M and then refinance it down the road,” she said. “But they didn’t give me the mortgage documents until the day of the closing, and they rushed me to sign everything.”
It wasn’t until the lenders started sending her default notices that she began to carefully read the terms of the agreement, which included a $400 a day penalty for every day a payment was late, and jacking up her interest rate to 18 percent once she fell behind, Garrido said.
“They took advantage of me from the very beginning,” Garrido said. “They have it set up so they can do this to people legally.”
Internoscia and Devstar have been in legal trouble before in connection with the latter’s co-development of Marina Palms Yacht Club and Residences, a luxury waterfront condominium in North Miami Beach. In 2018, real estate agent Yamile Espinosa and her brokerage Miami Grand Realty sued Internoscia, Marina Palms Realty, Marina Palms Residences North and Marina Palms Residences South for allegedly withholding payment of a $356,400 condo sales commission. The three companies are owned by Devstar Group and its development partner, The Plaza Group.
In 2020, Espinosa dismissed the lawsuit voluntarily after reaching a confidential settlement with the defendants, according to court records.