An ex-real estate broker with a revoked license advertises a high-rise, but he has no contract to build one.
TAMPA - The advertisement shows two couples shopping and sipping cocktails. It pictures a smiling doorman and a sun-splashed view of downtown.
Reserve a home in the Presidential Tower on the Hillsborough River, the ad says. "Celebrate the art of fine living, and secure a unit or two."
All inquiries should be sent to Alexander Miran, the ad says, no deposit required.
However, Miran, president of Presidential Towers, does not own the land where plans call for the high-rise to be built, neither is he the developer of the project.
Actually, Miran is facing grand theft charges. He's also a former real estate broker whose license was revoked by the state.
Another developer has a contract pending to buy the land where Miran wants to build the Presidential Towers.
Miran went to court to stop the competing project, but Hillsborough Circuit Judge Claudia Isom ruled before trial against Miran. He is appealing.
"We are going to take this all the way to the Supreme Court," Miran said. "We are not going to let these people destroy my dream."
Miran placed several half-page ads in the St. Petersburg Times last month advertising the Presidential Towers to potential homeowners. He said units would sell for $590,000 to $3-million for the grand penthouse.
The ad makes no mention of the project's troubles.
Miran said he placed the ad to announce the project publicly, for the first time. He denied that it was misleading.
"We are letting these idiots know we are not going away," Miran said of the ad.
Miran said the criminal charge, which has been pending for four years, was a business misunderstanding that should have been resolved in civil court. He said he has been wrongly accused.
The family of the late Michael Scionti, former chairman of the Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee, had been trying to sell their property for years. They own prime downtown real estate, on S Ashley Drive next to the Brorein Street bridge.
Miran made an offer and said he represented investors who wanted to build a 33-story residential tower.
He called his project the Presidential Towers. Miran told the Times he expected President Bush would sleep there one day.
Miran told the Scionti family that one of his investors was a business executive named Abbas Hashami. Melody Altman, an attorney for the Sciontis, said he told them Hashami was a New York developer with an office at the Empire State Building.
A contract filed in court listed the Empire State Building as an address for Hashami.
Actually, Hashami lives in Tampa. He owns Essence Beauty Supply on N Florida Avenue by the Floriland Mall.
"He has no real estate background," Altman said.
In the past, she said, he has been a used car salesman.
In an interview, Hashami refused to say whether he ever had an office at the Empire State Building. He said he was only a small business man.
"Alex has an office there," Hashami said.
Hashami said Miran, a friend, convinced him to invest $50,000, his life savings, in the project. "He told me this is a very good investment," he said.
Miran said he planned to open an office in an executive suite at the Empire State Building to sell condos to New Yorkers. But that hasn't happened yet.
The Sciontis agreed to sell the land for $2.1-million in cash, plus the rights to condos worth $800,000.
Hashami paid the Scionti family a $50,000 deposit in July 2002. A second $50,000 deposit was due by Oct. 22, 2002.
In October 2002, the Sciontis said, Presidential Towers failed to pay the second $50,000 deposit.
Miran said he wanted to pay the deposit, but the Sciontis refused to take the money. "They were shopping around the deal," he said.
Meanwhile, Miran was looking for other high-rises to build in South Tampa. In June 2001, Miran entered into a deal with partners to buy a lot on Bayshore Boulevard for $3.3-million. He planned another high-rise project there.
Miran and his partners planned to sell the lot to developers for $5.5-million, making a quick profit. But that project fell through too.
The developer never intended to buy the property, one of the partners alleges in a lawsuit. He accuses Miran of forging his signature on real estate documents.
Miran declined to discuss the lawsuit.
"Allegations are allegations," Miran said. "They have to be proved."
"My friend, this is America," said Miran, whose legal name is Seyed Reza Miran. "People come here from all over the world, trusting the country and the system. I am an idea man. I did everything I could do in good faith."
Miran also faces a mortgage foreclosure on another property that his company, Prime Properties of Central Florida Inc., purchased in 2003.
Miran said he is "in control" of the Presidential Towers property. He said the competing developer interfered in his contract.
"We will file a lawsuit against these people and this company," he said.
If Miran takes the lawsuit to the Supreme Court, he will need an attorney. He has been through at least eight lawyers in this lawsuit and others.
Most recently, Miran has represented himself in court. He's filed motions in court that call Judge Isom biased and ask her to reconsider rulings. The motions, scrawled on white paper, are littered with grammatical errors and misspelled words.
In one case, Miran sent his former attorney, David Smolker, a letter asking him to win the case. Miran sent the fax from a Kinko's and then provided it to opposing counsel.
"Do the right thing!!" the fax says. "You should know better!!"
"Alexander Miran's manner of conducting himself has been abominable," Altman said.
Meanwhile, the Aljinon Corp. has a $2.3-million contract pending to buy the lot from the Sciontis, according to court records.
The company controls several adjacent lots on the Hillsborough River. They also plan a residential project, but their attorney, Ron Weaver, declined to discuss any details. "These people are very real," he said. "They are under contract and have the financing to back it up."
- David Karp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 226-3376.