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Judge holds bankers in contempt, threatens jail

Judge holds bankers in contempt, threatens jail


Jose Pagliery Daily Business Review January 13, 2011

Representatives from six major banks that skipped a hearing in a Miami condo association receivership case could face the wrath of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey today if they fail to show up a second time.

The judge already has declared lenders that own or are foreclosing on units at Bird Grove Condo are on the hook for $105,999 in expenses for the court-appointed receiver for the association. She also held the six in contempt of court.

Bailey last month granted a request by the receiver, Miami attorney Lisa Lehner, to be paid for pulling the building — an asset for the foreclosing banks — back from the brink of condemnation.

When Lehner was appointed in March, garbage hadn’t been collected for weeks, electricity was about to be cut off, the building had no insurance, and an elevator was broken. She turned it around in months.

“They have property and collateral that if I walk away from turn into nothing,” Lehner said. “Here I am, sitting as their property manager, working for free after practicing law for 28 years. It’s just not fair.”

Lehner’s demand for $5,579 in expenses per unit went uncontested at a Dec. 1 show cause hearing where Bank of America was the only lender to send a representative. Missing were Flagstar Bank, GMAC, PNC Bank, SunTrust Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.

In November, banks owned two units and were foreclosing on another 17 units in the 39-unit building at 2734 Bird Ave. between a gas station and a gallery. A one-bedroom, one-bath unit is listed for sale for $50,000. Bank of America filed nine foreclosure cases, followed by GMAC with five.

The six lenders were ordered to send non-attorney representatives to today’s hearing, when Bailey will discuss whether the banks also should be required to pay the receiver’s upcoming maintenance fees. Bailey’s order threatened to have bankers arrested if they didn’t show, and she warned, “You may be held in jail up to 48 hours before a hearing is held.”


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