Filmmaker Billy Corben: “Miami is a predator city”

Documentarian calls out city attorney Victoria Mendez and her husband's real estate deals

Filmmaker Billy Corben is no fan of the current Miami mayoral administration, and City Attorney Victoria Méndez and her family’s real estate transactions in particular.

During public comment in a raucous city commission meeting last week, Corben unloaded on Mayor Francis Suarez, Méndez and other city officials, calling Miami “a predator city,” according to a video of the meeting that was posted on Corben’s Instagram account.

“With a few exceptions most of the people in charge are not public servants,” Corben, the director of the documentary and TV series “Cocaine Cowboys,” said. “You exploit the public to serve yourselves. You ask not what you can do for the city but what the city can do for you, for your cronies, for your spouses.

“We have a city manager who doesn’t even live in the city who writes checks with taxpayer money and hands them to his wife for overpriced office furniture.

“We have a city attorney who also doesn’t live in the city who is being sued for a house flipping scheme with her husband that allegedly exploits and deceives elderly homeowners.

“We have Francis Suarez — nice of you to show up — who works as a private concierge mayor for millionaire and billionaire clients, a mayor who will sell his public to anyone anywhere for any price, even for imaginary coins.”

Corben called for the ouster of Méndez, whom the commission ultimately voted in favor of terminating, but not until June.

Allegations calling for Méndez’s removal from City Hall stem from a series of scandals involving her, her family and her legal advice to city of Miami leaders. 

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The family of Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez flipped homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they paid for the properties, which were managed by the Guardianship Program of Dade County, according to a WLRN investigation

The nonprofit agency, which cares for incapacitated people or those who can’t afford to care for themselves, takes control of their assets and sells them to pay for their living expenses. It’s funded by Miami-Dade County and the state. 

A two-part WLRN investigation found that Méndez’s husband, Carlos Morales, bought 14 homes from the program, renovated them and flipped them for notable gains. Morales’ company, Express Homes, allegedly used his connection to Miami City Hall to get code violations resolved, according to a lawsuit filed by a former homeowner. 

“The city is drowning in a sea of scandals, unethical and possibly illegal conduct,” Corben said. “Please end the humiliating tenure of mob lawyer Vicki Méndez, the enabler and co-conspirator in much of this misconduct that has embarrassed the city all over the world for so many years. …

“We all know that this real estate deal was the subject of an indictment in which one of your colleagues that you served with up here for years.

“Some of you were arrested for bribery, money laundering and campaign finance crimes. Are you a corrupt cabal or are you capable of doing the right thing?”

Méndez, for her part, did not remain quiet.

“The reason why I’ve lasted over 10.5 years is because of my integrity,” Méndez shot back at Corben. “The reason why people like you get to bully me every day and I don’t lose sleep over you is because you are a vile little man.”

Méndez has worked for the city for nearly 20 years, and has been city attorney since 2013, WLRN reported.

— Ted Glanzer