Judge: Repay deposit on 2 Trump units

But the developer still hopes to fight the suit and salvage the Tampa condominium project.

By SCOTT BARANCIK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 28, 2007

A local investment group that put a $566,000 deposit on two Trump Tower Tampa condos but tired of waiting for the troubled project to be built may be getting its money back.

Adaja Properties LLC, which reserved Trump Tower units 4001 and 2304 in August 2005, filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Tampa developer SimDag/RoBEL LLC in July. SimDag failed to respond, however, so last month, Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Frank Gomez ordered it to repay Adaja's $566,000 deposit, plus $22,000 in interest and legal fees.

"The contract called for completion within a certain period of time," Tampa lawyer Thomas Long said in an interview Thursday. "We don't believe that's been met."

But the fight may not be over just yet. Kathy Rentas, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents SimDag and CEO Frank Dagostino, said Thursday that she will ask Gomez to vacate the judgment and, if successful, will then fight the suit. Rentas declined to say why SimDag missed the filing deadline.

The $588,000 award comes at a time when SimDag and project namesake Donald Trump are observing a brief cease-fire in a separate but related federal lawsuit filed in May.

In the suit, Trump accused SimDag of owing him more than $1-million under their licensing agreement and demanded that the company take his name off the Trump Tower project. SimDag countersued this month; the following day, both parties agreed to observe a 45-day cooling-off period while SimDag attempted to obtain alternative financing.

Lawyer Rentas declined to comment Thursday on the status of her client's funding hunt. But a note Dagostino posted Sept. 14 at www.trumptowertampa.com said he expected some "potential lenders" to deliver a commitment letter soon concerning the 190-unit project. He also asked for the condo buyers' patience.

"We do realize that we have gone beyond the expected due diligence period," he wrote. "But there is simply too much at stake for everyone involved with this project, and the city of Tampa as a whole, to terminate this project prematurely."

Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.