Condo war rival takes judge to court
By JOAN FLEISCHMAN
Drama at Casablanca, the Miami Beach condominium-hotel. The condo’s former board president, federal immigration Judge Lilliana Torreh-Bayouth, is a defendant in a libel suit.
Plaintiff is Richard Schecher, a multimillionaire insurance, real estate and finance executive. Schecher, 58, replaced Torreh-Bayouth, 49, as condo prez in May after a contentious recall of the board. Schecher’s company, Schecher Group, owns Casablanca’s rental program.
Schecher says Torreh-Bayouth ”falsely and maliciously” accused him of spreading misinformation, holding meetings in violation of Florida’s sunshine laws and extorting money from the condo association, according to his complaint, filed by attorney Steven M. Davis. Her ”defamatory statements” in a June 3 letter to unit owners subjected him to ”hatred, distrust, ridicule” and hurt him professionally, he says.
Their turf tussle has erupted into a Web war of the words.
Torreh-Bayouth’s attorney, Guy Spiegelman, calls it a basic “condo dispute between directors that degenerated into a massive character assassination of my client. It’s not only unfair, it’s evil.”
Schecher’s elaborate website — casablancaaca.com — has a tab titled ”The Lying Judge.” There also is a ”diva or devil” section, and a cartoon of a witch stirring the pot. ”LTB needs to stop brewing trouble,” the site says.
A Statue of Liberty photo links to a university analysis of immigration judges’ asylum denial rates. ”Has she denied any of your friends from Cuba or elsewhere? Click on the statue of Lady Liberty to view the record of all the judges, not just our Judge Lilliana,” the site says.
”Trash, malicious,” Torreh-Bayouth says. “The libel suit should have been me against him.”
Schecher uses images of Superman, a watchdog and John Wayne to depict himself. He posted his own photo in a Santa Claus suit, giving out toys to kids.
The anti-Schecher website — savecasablanca.com — says Schecher is launching ”cheap, libelous attacks” because the court ordered a new election of the board to be held after Oct. 1. ”Schecher was unable to control his anger” at a July 5 condo meeting, the anti-Schecher site says. “He started screaming, using foul and vulgar language and trying to intimidate unit owners. . . . The Casablanca website . . . is a mockery of everything decent and honorable. . . . Unprofessional, and it shows that the people behind it are unbalanced and lack any sense of decency.”
On Tuesday, Schecher e-mailed Chief Immigration Judge David L. Neal, complaining that Torreh-Bayouth is using her judicial position to ”destroy my business and professional reputation.” He also says she improperly sent e-mails from her Department of Justice work address, “giving credibility to her cause.”
”Oh, please,” she says. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Libel suit is before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jon Gordon. Circuit Judge Ronald Friedman is presiding over Schecher Group’s breach of contract and negligence suit against Torreh-Bayouth and the former board.