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Sader v. Padron

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 21, 2019

JOSE M. PADRON, Defendant.



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 94], Plaintiff's Response [DE 102], and Defendant's Reply [DE 109]. This suit arises out of a friendship and alleged business relationship between the parties. Plaintiff alleges that he relied on Defendant to help him make investments in the United States, specifically the purchase of a luxury condominium and a 50% ownership in a Honda dealership. However, when Plaintiff sought to have the title of those investments put in his name, Defendant refused. This suit followed. Plaintiff has brought claims of fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and accounting relating to the two investments. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims. In his response, Plaintiff concedes that he does not have claims for unjust enrichment. Consequently, summary judgment is granted as to these two claims. Summary judgment is denied as to the remaining claims because genuine issues of material fact exist as to the nature of the parties' relationship.

         I. MATERIAL FACTS[1]

         Plaintiff is a citizen of Venezuela. From 2012 until 2018, Plaintiff resided in Miami, Florida. Plaintiff currently resides in the Dominican Republic. Defendant is a United States citizen who moved his family to Venezuela in 2007 and lived there until January 2014. Initially, Defendant sold motorcycles in Venezuela and then he started working for his father-in-law's engineering and construction company, Inversiones Isgure C.A., as a field supervisor.

         Plaintiff met Defendant while Defendant was living in Venezuela and working for Inversiones Isgure C.A. The parties became quite friendly and Plaintiff began treating Defendant “as part of my family.” (Sader Decl. [DE 100-1] ¶ 6.) According to Defendant, between 2013 and 2017, Plaintiff and Defendant engaged in approximately ten currency exchanges. (Padron Dep. [DE 92-1] 14-19.) Defendant, however, has no records of the exchanges and could not remember who the exchanges were for, other than himself. (Id.)

         During the time the parties knew each other in Venezuela, Plaintiff was working as a consultant to the Venezuelan Ministry of Health's construction foundation. At the same time, Plaintiff also worked as a consultant for a private Venezuelan construction company and as a 30% owner of a Venezuelan corporation, Grupo Wintex, which owned 49 retail stores in Venezuela and one in Miami. Plaintiff created and incorporated Wintex U.S. LLC, a Florida corporation, in 2013 and 2014 for the purpose of establishing Wintex's presence in the United States. Plaintiff's work for the private companies paid him millions of dollars which he deposited into the bank accounts of two shell corporations, Wade Partners LLC in the British Virgin Islands and Belel, Inc. in Panama, which were set up in 2012. Later, Plaintiff also established Brick Investments, Ltd., a British Virgin Islands corporation. Plaintiff is the sole shareholder and owner of each of these corporations. (Sader Decl. ¶ 4.)

         Purchase of the Property

         According to Plaintiff, sometime in 2013, Plaintiff told Defendant that Plaintiff was interested in acquiring an apartment in South Florida as an investment. (Sader Decl. ¶ 17.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant told Plaintiff that Defendant could help Plaintiff because his father had a real estate brokerage and all his family members, including himself, were in the real estate business. (Sader Decl. ¶ 17.) Defendant further represented that he was a licensed real estate broker. (Id.) Plaintiff and Defendant looked at several properties together and met at Defendant's family's real estate office to discuss market analyses and real estate projects. (Id. ¶ 18.) After Plaintiff and Defendant would look at a property, Defendant would send Plaintiff price comparisons and would call Plaintiff to discuss which properties were the better investment. (Sader Dep. [DE 91-1 & -2] 337:8-22.)

         According to Plaintiff, he decided to purchase Unit 1901 at the SLS Lux Brickell Residences (the Property). (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff testified that once he decided to purchase the Property, Defendant told Plaintiff that it would be better if Defendant was listed as the buyer because he was American and it would look better and be safer for Plaintiff's investment. (Id.) Defendant further told Plaintiff that title to the Property would be in a limited liability company of which Defendant would be the manager and Plaintiff would be the sole owner. (Id.) After the sale was complete, Defendant would transfer the Property to Plaintiff or to a company that Plaintiff owned. (Id.) At the time of the signing of the purchase documents, Defendant told Plaintiff that his real estate license had expired so Defendant's brother-in-law, Luis Suarez, would be the real estate agent listed for the sale. (Id. ¶ 17; Sader Dep. 210:1-4; 213:20-214:5.)

         In connection with the purchase of the Property, Plaintiff made five transfers -- three in 2014, one in 2015, and one in 2016 -- totaling $499, 950.00 to Chicago Title, the escrow agent for the Property. (Id. ¶ 23.) The other half of the purchase price was paid through a mortgage obtained by Defendant. (Padron Dep. [DE 92-1] 37:24-38:6.) Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff transferred the $499, 950.00 that was used for the purchase of the Property; instead, he maintains that Plaintiff was not purchasing the Property but was transferring the money to Defendant as payment for an apartment in Caracas, Venezuela, which Plaintiff's father-in-law was purchasing from Defendant. (Padron Dep. 37:24-39:20; 41:24-43:23; 48:6-15.) Plaintiff testified that he never purchased an apartment in Caracas from anyone. (Sader Dep. 145:10-15.) Defendant testified that he was the sole purchaser of the Property. (Padron Dep. 35:2-14.) Luis Suarez testified that the Property was purchased by Defendant. (Suarez Dep. [DE 93-1] 27:9-13; 29:12-15.) The purchase of the Property was completed in March 2018, and Defendant retains title to the Property. (Sader Dep. 449:14-15.)

         The Honda Dealership

         According to Plaintiff, sometime in late 2012 or early 2013, Defendant raised the idea of Plaintiff and Defendant opening a Honda motorcycle dealership together. (Sader Decl. ¶ 8.) Defendant stated that he and Plaintiff would be 50/50 partners in the dealership. (Id.; Sader Dep. 155:23-156:23.) Defendant stated that he had the necessary experience because he had previously worked in a dealership in the United States and one in Venezuela. (Sader Decl. ¶ 8; Sader Dep. 156:10-23.) Defendant further told Plaintiff that he was going to use his mother's name and social security number to open the dealership because she had a better credit score and, after everything was done and the dealership was open, Defendant would put Plaintiff's name on the documents. (Sader Decl. ¶8; Sader Dep. 156:12-23; 442:8-14.) The amount of Plaintiff's investment was not discussed and Plaintiff still does not know how much money it took to open the dealership. (Sader Dep. 158:9-10; 237:2-7.) No. written agreement between Plaintiff and Defendant was ever made regarding the dealership. (Sader Dep. 158:5-8; 161:17-162:6.)

         According to Plaintiff, he and Defendant continued to have conversations about starting the Honda dealership and spoke about the progress of the construction, obtaining permits, obtaining approval from Honda, and finding a property site on which to construct the dealership. (Sader Decl. ¶ 9.) On October 13, 2013, Plaintiff wired Defendant $300, 000.00 and, on May 31, 2015, Plaintiff wired Defendant another $300, 000.00, both of which Plaintiff testified were for the Honda dealership. (Sader Dep. 241:20-242:22.) In 2014, Plaintiff sold his Lamborghini and assigned to Defendant for the Honda dealership $200, 000.00 from the sale. (Sader Dep. 244:7-14.) Defendant continued to ask Plaintiff for more money for the dealership. (Sader Dep. 251:3-11; 305:10-306:12.) In 2017, Plaintiff transferred $200, 000.00 to the contractor who was building the dealership. (Sader Dep. 325:19.)

         According to Defendant, these money transfers were not for the Honda dealership but were for debt Plaintiff owed Defendant arising from currency exchanges between Plaintiff and Defendant that had taken place when Defendant resided in Venezuela. (Padron Dep. 56:20-24; 69:4-13; 104:5-9.) Plaintiff denies that the parties ever engaged in currency exchanges with each other. (Sader Dep. 408: 13-15.) Plaintiff did not sign any of the loan documents for the loans related to the Honda dealership and was not part of the LLC that owned the dealership. ...

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