Update: The judge's ruling is extraordinary, in that it that denies Barry Minkow a jury trial and orders him to pay sanctions estimated at up to hundreds of millions of dollars.
By Beth Barrett
A Miami judge has ruled against Barry Minkow in a libel and extortion lawsuit brought by Lennar Corp., and attorney fees and damages — which the home builder has previously estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars — are yet to be determined.
Florida State Court Judge Gill Freeman found that MInkow, the ZZZZ Best carpet-cleaning California con-man turned pastor and fraud buster, gave false testimony, withheld documents, destroyed evidence, concealed the identity of key witnesses, willfully violated court orders and tried to “cloud his misconduct.” Minkow even did this:
He engaged in the ultimate fraudster screw-up, the judge found: he “intentionally” misrepresented those matters to his own attorneys.
Minkow's misconduct has been “pervasive, intentional and committed to gain unfair advantage over plaintiffs and to deceive this court,” Freeman said in the decision she signed Monday.
Alvin E. Entin, Minkow's attorney, said he hadn't read the ruling, and couldn't immediately comment.
Two years ago, the Weekly has reported, Minkow leveled a series of charges against Lennar after which the company 's stock lost more than 20 percent of its value – nearly $500 million – in the following two trading days. Lennar responded by adding Minkow to a libel and extortion lawsuit.
The sanctions Freeman imposed are extremely rare and reserved for cases where the most egregious conduct is determined.
The judge said Minkow, as an experienced litigant, was familiar with the rules of discovery and had no excuse for his conduct.
The LA Weekly in an October 14 story on Minkow headlined “Barry Minkow 2.0,” detailed many of the false statements and other improper conduct Minkow engaged in – and which has gone largely unreported by other news agencies who mistakenly built Minkow up as a reformed fraud buster and Christian pastor.
The judge said Minkow admitted through his counsel that he had used his church's funds to pay one of his fraud consultants.
Freeman said she decided on terminating sanctions after determining Minkow's “egregious” abuses constituted a “fraud on the court.”
“The court finds that MInkow's misconduct was willful, tactical, egregious and inexcusable and that such misconduct has permeated the entirety of this litigation,” she ruled.