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Miami Beach condos owned by convicted mobster hit auction block
Three luxury condo units owned by convicted loan shark Mel Cooper go on the auction block Thursday following the bankruptcy of a company he owns.
After a legal feud with his son, the one-time mob associate has lost control of the three apartments at the Fontainebleau II, a luxury condo tower nestled in South Beach’s Fontainebleau resort complex.
Live bidding will start at $660,000 for a studio and $1.63 million for a package deal that includes a one-bedroom and a studio. The auction will take place at 12 p.m. at two locations: the Holiday Inn near the Fontainebleau and the U.S. bankruptcy court in New York City.
Don’t come to gawk and think you can sneak in a bid: Deposits of $40,000 are required for the studios and $60,000 for the one-bedroom.
Cooper was convicted in federal court in 1985 for a loan sharking operation that prosecutors said was linked to the Gambino and Colombo organized-crime families, and served about eight years in prison. The case was part of a crackdown on mobsters by then-U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani.
After serving his time, Cooper was involved in several different businesses, including a long-distance phone company. But he stayed out of the headlines until 2004, when he sued a former girlfriend to recoup the money he spent on her before she dumped him — $392,000, including interest — according to a report in the New York Post.
During Miami’s real estate boom, Cooper wanted a piece of the action.
In 2005, he bought two units at the Fontainebleau II for a combined $1 million. His son David bought a third for $440,000.
According to bankruptcy filings, Cooper rented out the units as hotel rooms, which the Fontainebleau allows. But management at the resort at 4401 Collins Ave. had been holding onto $700,000 Cooper earned because he and his son were fighting over who actually owned the units.
With no income coming in, Imperial and Cooper filed for bankruptcy. A trustee appointed by a federal court in New York will handle the auction.
Cooper could not be reached and his attorney, Alan Stein, declined to comment. In court documents, Cooper denied a creditor’s charge that he had been an “organized crime boss,” although he admitted that he had done time for a felony conviction.
New York-based Maltz Auctions is in charge of the sale. Richard Maltz, the firm’s president, said he didn’t know about the units’ shady past. But he said the hotel rental program would provide a “very strong revenue stream” for buyers. Studios are going for about $450 per night this summer.
Will the publicity of the units’ mob ties help draw more bids, a reporter asked?