Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who's real development darling?

There's this great saying in Cuban -- "como los pajaros tirandole a la escopeta," which translates, really pitifully, into "that's like the birds shooting at the rifles" but more literally into "the kettle calling the teapot black" (us Cubans have no teapots and the birds quote is more colorful).

That's how Ladra characterizes most of the rhetoric coming from mayoral candidate and Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina. One of the front runners -- despite headlines about federal investigations into his freelance loan making and other financial matters as well as ties to organized crime and the illegal "maquinita" industry -- Robaina's latest bird shooting at rifle moment is in his camp's negative attack ads against Carlos Gimenez on his development record. Yeah, I know, Ladra's ears went up, too. Robaina has tried to raise questions about campaign contributions the recently resigned commissioner has gotten from developers and development interests.

Is he kidding?

Yes, this is the "bad" Robaina, the real estate mogul whose net worth is reported at more than $8 million this year. The same Robaina -- photographed here dodging questions about a Hialeah cop with an $80,000 annual salary and free home courtesy of Hialeah Housing Authority -- who got the LBA endorsement because he represents the interests of the building community. The same Robaina who had a fundraiser thrown for him by the Spanish firm building a reverse osmosis water plant in Hialeah. (We have to do more on that later). He also has tens of thousands in campaign funds -- perhaps an investment of more than $100,000 -- that came in "bundled" contributions from one group of real estate development interests that include former and current business partners in a planned 160-acre mixed residential/commercial project on the western edge of Kendall on land that was in the last approved UDB application in 2008.

And he accuses a Tropical Audobon Society 2006 "Hold The Line Hero" because of his consistent votes against moving the UDB because of some development contributions? Really? Does anyone else think that's ridiculous? What about what he said at last month at the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Association forum when asked about the UDB line. "Inventory? Too much right now. So we need to look inside. Infill. Redevelopment of our corridors, especially our transportation corridors," Robaina said. "As a mayor I have worked with the DCA for responsible growth. That's the direction that we need to take in Miami-Dade County."

What Robaina hasn't said in any of the too many forums (and Ladra has submitted questions that, by chance we guess, just never get asked by the moderators), is that he owns interest in a West Kendall development known as Kendall Commons that was outside the UDB line until 2008, the last time the county commission voted to move the line in a somewhat contentious application known as the "Brown Tract application" for Kendall Drive @ 172nd Avenue. Like that little @? Ladra used it because Kendall @ 172, LLC is the name of the company in which Robaina owns interest, said his campaign manager. (More on the @ later). That company, owned mostly by David and Victor Brown and John Boschetti, owns one of the 12 parcels that make up the 160-acre planned development. The others are owned or represented by more Robaina friends -- people like Sergio Pino, Armando Guerra, Otto Rodriguez, Martin Caparros, his first real estate business partner, his former special aide Alex Ruiz, now president of RealCapital Consulting, and former Hialeah City Attorney Alex Vilarello. Total paid for about 230 acres (only 160 are in the plan; wonder what plans are already in the works for the other 70): $125 million, according to county property records. Robaina's campaign manager, Ana Carbonell (who worked for Lincoln Diaz-Balart), told Ladra that Robaina's interest was 2.5 percent of the piece owned by Kendall @ 172, which is the largest at 101 acres and was purchased in 2009 for $11.5 million, even though it was assessed at almost half. And the lovely, stamped application for a zoning hearing shows Robaina claimed 10 percent of Prestige Builders' Kendall Commons piece, which is five percent of the project overall, what he told Ladra personally after one of the forums earlier this month..

Naturally, those who own the other pieces of the pie have contributed heavily to his campaign. Caparros alone has forked over $18,000 at least in "bundled" $500 maximum checks from several of his companies (including Prestige Builders). The Boschettis have given at leat $2,500. Several contributions are tied to Pino. Arthur Falcone, who sold the property to Prestige and also provided a second mortgage, has given at least $7,500 through 15 contritbutions. Because a zoning change is just the start of the process, ladies and gentlemen. There will be traffic studies and impact fees to negotiate, site plans to approve and mitigation to plan. There will be a lot of headaches and hoops for developers. Might be nice to have a friend on the 29th floor.

Sure, Gimenez does have some development gifts. He got bundled contributions himself, $10,000 in 20 checks from real estate developer Jeffrey Berkowitz. Another $5,000 or so come from companies owned by the Hollo family, which are Tibor Hollo, the grandfather of Miami condo development, and his sons Jerome Hollo, vice president of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, and Wayne Hollo, vice president of Florida East Coast Realty. But Ladra can't see Gimenez as a developer's "friend" on the 29th floor. And, interestingly, he has no visible stake in any big development. And Ladra has tried to find some.

It was not that easy -- and perhaps intentionally -- to find Robaina's either.

Remember that @ in the Kendall@172? It's hard to forget, eh? But Robaina did. He listed 200 acres (just 5 percent?) as an asset on the financial disclosure on the same line as a firm named 172, LLC. Trouble is, that company does not exist in Florida Division of Corporation records. Someone might try to look it up and not find it and just end there. But there is a company named Kendall@172, however, and that is the one. Robaina seems to forget a lot these days. Recently, when Ladra asked if the omission of Kendall@ was just a typo, he directed questions to Hugo Arza, his attorney-turned-campaign consultant and brother of former State Rep. Ralph Arza (REP, District 112) who resigned in disgrace after he left obscene messages on the voice mail of a fellow State Rep. Gus Barreiro (REP, District 107, Miami Beach) and pleaded guilty in 2007 to misdemeanor counts of tampering with a witness, getting slapped with 18 months of probation and community service.

"I don't know whether it was or wasn't," a typo, Hugo Arza told me, handing a business card and saying he would find out. He also said he would look into when Robaina invested in that project, because the Hialeah mayor is listed as an interest holder in last year's zoning change application, as required, but not on the UDB application in 2008. Won't hold my breath, though. "I'm not on your deadline," Arza said. More than two weeks later, nada.

Thank goodness for public records to keep us breathing. The information you are about to read was gathered through the Miami-Dade clerk's and building and planning departments, court records, the property appraiser's office, campaign finance records and the Florida Division of Corporations and the South Florida Business Journal.

Robaina was listed as part owner of the project in an April 2010 zoning change application to the Miami Dade Community Council District 11 by Kendall Land Development, LLC, to build Kendall Commons, a planned and repeatedly stalled (since 2003) controversial development of single family homes, townhouses, a school, a church and a community center on vacant land from Kendall Drive to 96th Street and 167th to 172nd avenues. The application shows Kendall Land Development is 50 percent Boschetti Capital Partners (belonging to Jose and Luis Boschetti) and 50 percent Prestige Builders Capital Investiments, LLC, owned by Caparros, Rodriguez, Alex Vega and Robaina. It was approved a year after the bank forclosed on Prestige Builders for the property. Yeah, that's right. The bank foreclosed on them in 2009, but they went to mediation last year and it may have been settled. They got the zoning change, however, months before that. (Can we reform that?) Anyway, state corporate records do not list Robaina as an officer of Prestige (curious) but the same address in Miami Lakes (which, by the way, also goes back to his PAC), is the address for several of his firms in which his business partners are Prestige's principals (Caparros and Vega, for the most part). Also, the land was once owned by Boca Raton-based developer Arthur Falcone, president of Kendall Commons Inc. when it was purchased by Kendall Land Development for $74 million in 2004, according to the Business Journal story (that could be for the 160 acres; property records show the figures quoted above). Falcone -- who also happens to be the developer of the proposed downtown Miami Worldcenter project -- also happens to be president of Falcone Funding, which provided a second mortgage to Kendall Land Development for the property. The 2009 foreclosure lawsuit, which was one of the largest in size and number of housing units, was for the first mortgage for $33.8 million in 2004 (modified to $22 million in January 2008).

Ladra wonders why Robaina, whose exploits as a freelance loan officer has been the subject of a federal investigation, couldn't find other sources of funding.


  1. Ladra,
    Thank you so much for going the extra mile to show how this Mayoral candidate contradicts himself everytime his mouth opens... IT IS DISGUSTING....

  2. Kendall @ 172 is up for foreclosure auction June 3. No people were named in lawsuit.

    Internacional el Rey Jesus, which is managed by Guillermo Maldonado, bought the loan.

    See story in South Florida Business Journal:

  3. Thanks Brian. I missed that one! No wonder he was cagy about the questions on the project.

  4. Ladra,
    Is the Alex Vega the same Vega that is robaina's budget director in hialeah?

  5. This robaina guy is so delusional!!! look at what he just posted on his facebook page: "Today’s poll showing us with 44% support among voters that have already cast their ballots, as well as our internal tracking, confirms that voters are rejecting the negative campaign attacks and strongly supporting our message of effective leadership to bring genuine reform to Miami-Dade County Government."

    The lies keep coming and coming

  6. I have been told that it is a different Alex Vega, but it is worth looking into further. If we can get through all the other stuff we are looking into further.

  7. It is a different alex vaga. This one is alexander vega and you will find him closely associated with most Land deals that involve the annexed area inside HIALEAH.. OH WAIT.. tHAT WOULD BE A CONFLICT IF INTEREST.. Robaina would have actually had to register himself as a lobbyist seeing how hard he pushed the development and infrastructure on property with current business partners. HMMMMMM You are just scratching the surface Ms. Ladra......


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