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Must learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
|A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake|
Posted Monday, March 7, 2011
By Frances Robles
A long-time entertainer who is vying to become the next president of Haiti has defaulted on more than $1 million in loans and lost three South Florida properties to foreclosure in just over a year, public records show.
|Can he really manage Haiti's finances?|
Among the houses Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly lost was the 5-bedroom 6,000-square foot Royal Palm Beach home the singer shared with his wife and four children until he returned to Haiti in 2007.
Records show he and his wife Sophia bought the brand new two-story house on Wellington View Drive in the summer of 2005 for $910,000. They took out two loans, including one for $637,000, according to Palm Beach County records. Martelly stopped paying one of the mortgages’ $3,251 payment on Nov. 1, 2008, the files show.
The bank sued, Martelly and the trustee named on the records did not respond, and a judge ordered a foreclosure. The house was sold a month ago in a bank sale, and is now listed for sale for $500,000.
The house was among three properties Martelly purchased – including two in Broward County – that banks took back for lack of payment. Those lawsuits join liens from homeowner associations and a Broward County hospital, which sued the candidate for payment of a medical bill.
The issue of Martelly’s financial acumen will likely increase scrutiny of him him on the campaign trail, where he enjoys popular support among Haiti’s youth. Anonymous bloggers are spreading the word about the real estate deals and asking: “Why Michel Martelly is running for president of Haiti while facing deep financial problems in United States?”
Campaign spokesman Damian Merlo said the candidate was victim of a tanked economy and failed investments he did not manage personally. He denied that the singer ever lived in any of the houses, although in 2007 the Miami Herald visited Martelly twice at the unfurnished Royal Palm Beach home, which included a padded recording studio.
“I don’t think it’s related to his capability to manage investments or his capability as a successful businessman,” Merlo said. “Every successful businessman has transactions that are not as successful all the time. He is one of the most successful businessmen in Haiti and is hoping to transfer those skills as president of Haiti.”
But some analysts said the revelations could have an impact on Martelly’s campaign because not much is known about his management abilities.
“Haitian voters know little about Martelly and his track record in management of institutions, resources, and people — let alone a country —given his dearth of elected or otherwise political track record,” said Trinity University Prof. Robert Maguire, a longtime Haiti observer. “The next president of Haiti will be an instrumental force not just in leading Haiti beyond the aftermath of the earthquake to a future that addresses essential issues of poverty alleviation and economic growth, but also in managing relations with the international community which, in essence, finances Haiti’s future.
“If Martelly’s past track record of resource management is flawed, Haitian voters should know about it, and he should respond.”
Martelly moved to South Florida in the 1980s and tried his hand at construction. He ultimately became a kompa music star and had a regular gig on Ocean Drive in the 1990s. In 2007, he announced his retirement from the stage – and then stopped making payments on the real estate he had purchased.
Martelly bought the houses as investments, which soured when the real estate boom crashed, Merlo said. Asked whether Martelly walked away from the steep debt because he owed more than the houses were worth, Merlo said: “He could always pay.”
Merlo stressed that the investments were managed by Martelly advisor Natacha Magloire, an event promoter and licensed real estate agent.
That’s a weak defense from someone who seeks to be president, said mortgage foreclosure expert Shari Olefson, author of “Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream.”
“If his treasurer steals money when he’s president, will his defense be that he didn’t know, because it was the treasurer who did it? That’s not a leader,” Olefson said. “He obviously had no ethical qualms about walking away from promises he made to banks. If you break a promise three times, why honor any campaign promises made to the poor people in his country? This seems to be a guy who saw easy money and played the game along with the worst of them.”
The “more honorable” options when under water are to short sell or negotiate with the banks, she said.
“He’s the poster child of what you are not supposed to do,” Olefson said.
But veteran political consultant Armando Gutierrez, who has no connection to Martelly’s campaign, said lots of candidates have money problems.
“All he has to say is that he, like millions of other Americans, was a victim of the U.S. economy,” Gutierrez said. “A lot of people lose everything and then make it all back again.”
Records show it did not start out so bleak for Martelly and Magloire, the real estate advisor. They purchased a Brickell Avenue condo together in 2005 for $399,190, and sold it a year later for $715,000, according to Miami-Dade County records.
A second house he lost to foreclosure also leads back to Magloire. A Pembroke Pines home she purchased in 1998 changed hands several times between friends and family until the Martellys purchased it for $435,000 in February 2006, borrowing $348,000.
The last $1,848.75 mortgage payment was made March 2008, records show. Green Point Mortgage wanted its money, as did the community association. Another $16,868 in back taxes was due, too. Records show that when the bank sued, Magloire’s relatives Serge and Daniella Magloire were also named in the suit.
By Dec. 2009, the house was sold at a bank sale.
Three months later, a Wiles Road condo in Coral Springs Martelly paid $267,990 for also foreclosed. Purchased in Aug. 2007, it was in default within six months, because nobody made the $2,037 monthly payments.
“These were investments managed by Natacha Magloire; she was totally responsible for managing these. She was the one who advised him what properties to buy,” Merlo said, noting that bankruptcy has haunted the most successful of tycoons. “Even Donald Trump went into foreclosure. It doesn’t relate to running a country.”
|Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights|
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