TANER GOKALP and SAMTRAC CORPORATION, a Florida corporation, Appellants,
MEHMET SERHAN UNSAL, CORAL RIDGE NE 35 DRIVE LLC, PARK RIDGE 3650 LLC, AUSTRALIAN PARK 5401 EAST, LLC and ERTUGRUL MERIC, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Jeffrey R. Levenson, Judge; L.T. Case No.
CACE 14-008947 (09).
Marie Macci of Lisa Marie Macci, PA, Boca Raton, and
Elizabeth J. Kates, Pompano Beach, for appellants.
B. Kula and W. Aaron Daniel of Kula & Associates, P.A.,
Miami, and Brian Barakat of Barakat Law, P.A., Coral Gables,
for appellee, Mehmet Serhan Unsal.
case concerns a conspiracy arising from Mehmet Unsal's
retention of an agent, Ertugrul Meric, to bird dog real
estate investments in South Florida in the wake of the Great
agent enlisted appellant, Tanner Gokalp, to locate investment
properties. According to the jury verdict, the agent and
Gokalp conspired to manipulate the prices of certain
properties so Unsal paid inflated prices for them.
brought suit against Gokalp and a corporation he controlled.
Meric was named a defendant but never served. At trial,
Gokalp attempted to shift all of the blame to Meric's
empty chair. The jury rejected this defense and found for
Unsal on his claims of civil theft, conversion, and breach of
fiduciary duty. The jury awarded total damages of $604, 000.
The circuit court entered judgment for $1, 812, 000, three
times the jury award as permitted by the civil theft statute.
affirm on all issues but one. As to the conversion and civil
theft claims involving three Fort Lauderdale properties,
Meric's profit was $167, 000. It is undisputed
that Gokalp and his corporation received no money from the
sale of these properties so there was not sufficient evidence
against them to support the conversion and civil theft
damages of $167, 000.
theft is a statutory form of conversion. . . ."
Sarkis v. Pafford Oil Co., Inc., 697 So.2d 524, 528
(Fla. 1st DCA 1997); see § 772.11(1), Fla.
Stat. (2014) (civil remedy for theft). A claim for civil
theft consists of conversion plus criminal intent.
Gasparini v. Pordomingo, 972 So.2d 1053, 1056 (Fla.
3d DCA 2008).
recipient of converted property is liable to the rightful
owner in an action for conversion." Goodwin v.
Alexatos, 584 So.2d 1007, 1011 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991).
However, "a party which does not personally receive
property which is the subject of an alleged conversion or
civil theft cannot be held liable for such action."
Transcapital Bank v. Shadowbrook at Vero, LLC, 226
So.3d 856, 864 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017); see generally Orozco
v. McCormick 105, LLC, 276 So.3d 932, 935 (Fla. 3d DCA
2019) ("the plaintiff must show that the defendant
exercised a positive, overt act or acts of dominion or
authority over the money or property in question . . .
Bank also involved a real estate transaction. There, the
plaintiffs paid an $8, 500 appraisal fee to Transcapital at
closing for an appraisal that was never done. It was
undisputed that two of the co-defendants (Himes and Zedeck)
did not receive any of the $8, 500 appraisal fee. 226 So.3d
at 860-61. This court found that only Transcapital received
the $8, 500 appraisal fee and that both Himes and Zedick were
entitled to a directed verdict on the combined conversion
claim. Id. at 864. In short, Himes and Zedeck did
not touch or control the plaintiffs' property, so they
were entitled to a directed verdict on the plaintiffs'
because Gokalp and his corporation did not receive
Unsal's funds for the three Fort Lauderdale properties,
they did not receive the "property which is the subject
of [the] alleged conversion," and "cannot be held
liable for such action." Transcapital Bank, 226
So.3d at 864. As Unsal's conversion claim fails, so does
Unsal's civil theft claim because a plaintiff must prove
conversion to recover for civil theft.
reverse in part and remand for entry of an amended final
judgment totaling $1, ...