|Terrell Owens says Greenberg Traurig screwed him over.|
Professional football's most
controversial wide receiver is accusing a prominent Miami law firm
and one its attorneys of seedy, unethical behavior. In a lawsuit
filed in Palm Beach County this week, Terrell Owens alleges Greenberg
Traurig and firm shareholder and real estate lawyer Pamela Linden
convinced him to invest $2 million in a sham casino resort project in
Earlier this year, the project's developer, 45-year-old Ronnie Gilley, was busted for bribing state legislators to get a gambling bill passed. Owens claims
other NFL players also lost money on the deal and that Linden did not
disclose the project was in trouble.
Michael Simon, a Boca Raton lawyer representing Owens, declined comment. Linden did not return a voicemail message and an email seeking comment. Greenberg spokeswoman Lourdes Brezo-Martinez acknowledged Owens was a client, but she denied the firm represented him on the casino deal. "To the extent we represented him in other matters, the facts will show the firm and its attorneys acted faithfully and appropriately at all times."
The complaint, first reported by the Courthouse News Service
, says Owens retained Linden in 2006 to represent him in many business and real estate transactions. Two years later, he was offered an opportunity to invest in Gilley's Country Crossing Casino, a gaming resort that would "house a for profit electronic bingo component." Owens and his NFL friends would play a role in the entertainment component of the project.
In exchange for his $2 mil, Owens was promised a 15 percent rate of return and an ownership interest in Country Crossing. According to the lawsuit, Linen set up TO Miami Group LLC and several seperate entities for other NFL players to handle the investments on their behalf. But the deal unraveled in less than two years.
Owens claims Linden never told him Country Crossing did not have a gambling license and that electronic bingo is illegal in Alabama. On January 2010, Owens learned federal law enforcement officials raided the construction site of the Montegomery casino. This past February, Gilley was charged with one count of conspiracy, six counts of federal bribery, 11 counts of honest services mail and wire fraud, and four counts of money laundering.
The developer was caught paying off state legislators to get a gambling bill passed. Four months later, Gilley pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors to build cases against the politicians he bribed.
As Owens learned more details about Gilley's criminal activities, the future Hall of Famer says Linden repeatedly stonewalled his efforts to get documents related to his investment, such as paperwork approving the release of funds to Country Crossing.
Owens claims when he was finally able to get some of the information he was seeking, he found out that Linden had approved documents that relinquished all control and voting power Owens had been promised.
Founded in 1967, Miami-based Greenberg Traurig is one of the largest law firms in the world with 1,800 lawyers working in 32 locations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Its partners are some of the most prolific politican campaign donors in America. For example, Executive Chairman Cesar Alvarez gave $159,950 to federal candidates and political action committees between 1992 and 2009, including $15,000 a piece to the Democratic and Republican national parties.
The firm has also had it's fair share of controversies:
- In 2004, three years after joining Greenberg, the firm fired superstar Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff when a congressional committee started to probe his illicit affairs representing Indian tribes seeking favorable casino legislation.
- In 2005, Abramoff was indicted on five counts of wire fraid and one count of conspiracy in their purchase of a fleet of Florida gambling boats from Broward businessman Gus Boulis, who was later killed in a gangland style hit.
- In June 2006, Greenberg Traurig agreed to pay the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation $7.6 million for its role as a legal adviser to the now defunct Hamilton Bank of Miami, to settle allegations that it had helped to cover up bank officers' financial misconduct.
- In November 2006, Jay I. Gordon, the former chairman of Greenberg Traurig's tax practice, resigned from the New York bar and was disbarred for taking over $1.2 million in kickbacks on tax shelters that he had recommended to wealthy clients of the firm.
- In November 2008, a New York State court refused to dismiss a suit alleging that Robert J. Ivanhoe, chairman of Greenberg Traurig's New York City office and head of its real estate group, disregarded his "legal and fiduciary duties" by taking a personal financial stake in a competitor to a client that had invested in a multibillion-dollar real estate venture.