Sunshine State

Bienvenido a Miami

In the years following Robert’s murder, Florida seemed to be calling out to the Swann Street defendants.  Dylan Ward moved down to Wilton Manors, Ft. Lauderdale’s gay enclave in the fall of 2007 to work at a massage parlour.

Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky purchased their $715, 000 Miami Shores home in June 2008.

Shortly after the purchase, Ward, still working at the ‘spa,’ moved in as caretaker.

He remained there until his extradition back to DC.  Why does Florida matter?

Depending on the outcome of Kathy Wone’s $20 million  wrongful death  civil suit, the house may be up for grabs.  Florida law regarding creditor protection – the Homestead Exemption – gained prominence in the wake of another wrongful death suit, OJ Simpson’s.

To help us navigate the murky waters of Florida real estate law, contributor METO gives us a tutorial.

According to Zwillow, the estimated market value of the Florida home now is $616,000, down from $658,000 earlier this summer.   Do I hear $600,000?  METO puzzles:

“Because of questions posed recently regarding how and why someone might want to own residential property in Florida, I was curious and so I went alligator hunting.  And that led to this question: are Joe and Victor DC (or Virginia) permanent residents or are they permanently domiciled in Florida.  Why does this matter?”

There appears to be a public document that suggests the two may claim to live permanently in Florida.   And to give credit where credit is due, Michael (one of the editors), Bill Baskin, CDinDC, SKS and Bea started down this trail in comments to a June 29 post.  I came upon that as I was looking at Domicile from the other side of the same coin.

Like so much that is connected to Robert’s murder, the waters are murky.  Michael’s June 29 post led me to the Florida real estate information that tells us a lot, including that Joe and Victor own the property in question as Joint Tenants.

First, the easy part such as it is.  The Florida constitution provides for an unlimited creditor protection – “Homestead exemption” – for one.  Article X, Section 4: under Florida law, there can be no forced sale or lien (limited exemptions apply) permitted.  Ilkanic v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 705 So.2d 1371 (1998).

Subject to what follows below, this means that a person could have a $10,000,000 residential property in Florida that cannot be seized by creditors.   This rule applies to any natural person, whether or not the person is domiciled in Florida.  If today were 2004, this would be the end of this story as to the creditor protection, but of course as with most advantageous legal positions, major abuse in high-profile cases led Congress to limit this protection under certain circumstances.

The concern is of someone parachuting into Florida for the purpose of avoiding liability.

Congress in 2005 adopted limits to all state exemptions, but this applies only in bankruptcy cases.  Until there is a bankruptcy filing, nothing that follows applies and the Florida unlimited exemption holds fast.

Assume for a moment that Kathy Wone is successful in her lawsuit against the defendants.  The complaint is based upon intentional acts, which could be non-dischargeable in bankruptcy as a matter of public policy.  Thus a bankruptcy filing, except to avoid legal fees(?), would be useless to the defendants.  However, certain creditors can force an involuntary filing of bankruptcy.

Congress adopted three separate limitations to discourage parachuting into Florida, and other states, for this “avoiding debts” purpose.  In order to qualify for the unlimited exemption the affected eefendants, prior to any bankruptcy petition being filed, would need to:

(1) be domiciled in Florida for two years; (2) have purchased the real estate 3 years and 4 months ago (otherwise the amount is limited to $136,875 (adjusted by inflation) per person; and (3) not be found to have hindered, delayed or defrauded creditors in making the real estate purchase 10 years ago. 11 U.S.C. §§ 522(e)(3)(a) and (o) and (p).

We shall turn to domicile in a later post since that leads to the most interesting part of this story and ties together with what our colleagues found in June.

-posted by Craig

49 comments for “Sunshine State

  1. CDinDC
    11/20/2009 at 1:57 PM

    One question….who is living in the Florida property today? And has the Florida property ever been search for evidence? (Sure, the Florida property was purchased well after Robert’s murder, but people that commit horrible crimes do not ALWAYS dispose of their evidence. Perhaps something was transported and stashed in the Florida property.

    • Craig
      11/20/2009 at 2:33 PM

      CD – We might have a record of who now rents the Miami Shores home. We’ll have to look.

      It’s entirely possible it’s just a tenant. And by ‘tenant’ I don’t mean a Sarah Morgan.

      Part II of Meto’s post will go up next week I hope. He gets into just exacltly where Team Swann is claiming residency and how that could impact things. Sunshine Supermen.

      • Bea
        11/20/2009 at 2:58 PM

        One of the early filings to support that the defendants didn’t need to post bond included a copy of the rental agreement signed by Victor with some (apparently random) woman – appeared to be through a rental agency so likely not a ‘Sarah’ or ‘Dyl’. They used it to prove that they weren’t likely to fly the coop to Florida.

        • Clio
          11/21/2009 at 12:49 AM

          Bea, here may be another female enabler of the trouple, even if the “support” may be unintentional — I am starting to despair of our weakest sisters!

          • Bea
            11/21/2009 at 1:36 AM

            Indeed – yet I suspect that these boys have many XY chromosome types bedazzled and confused as well. How, I don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that the many supporters can only say “he COULDN’T have done such a thing – the affidavit must be WRONG” as to whomever that supporter has an affinity or connection. Nothing else makes sense – just absolute rejection of all things contrary. Pesky “facts”!

  2. Clio
    11/20/2009 at 2:18 PM

    Culuket lived in Florida as a child; Key West was one of his way stations as a Navy brat. He’s just hoping to reinvent himself again in southern Florida, after the events of 08/02/06. Comeback after denial is his goal, but confession is the prerequisite for redemption. Sorry, Joe!

    So, I guess that, in the best-case scenario for the trouple, they all hope to beat the rap (and the disgrace) and retreat to the relative anonymity of Fort Lauderdale with its large gay leather community. Perhaps, they dream of setting up an erotic emporium close to the airport. They may have to postpone these plans for any Eveless Eden until the 2040s, though, to do their time.

  3. SheKnowsSomething
    11/20/2009 at 4:03 PM

    I recall reading in somewhere early on — either in an early WaPo piece or in the October 2008 arrest affidavit that Victor had a Florida driver’s license. At a minimum, what must an individual do or show in order to establish residency in Florida.

    • AnnaZed
      11/20/2009 at 4:34 PM

      To the Victor go the spoils (part 2) ~

      Interesting that this nelly mummy figure that we all keep granting extra license and special circumstances dispensation from responsibility for this crime (I know! me too!) is the one with the foresight to try to build a Florida residency for himself and may well be the one left with all of the cash (having shielded it from Cathy Wone).

      Could it play out that as the tide turns against the trouple with the tampering and obstruction charges (as it certainly will I think) that Dylan and Joe will fall and Victor will retreat to an ignominious and by then thoroughly infamous existence in some tacky castle in Florida? I don’t much like the sound and smell of that outcome (rotten); he’s into this thing up to his pantywaist.

      • Clio
        11/20/2009 at 6:26 PM

        That may be, AZ, Victoria’s secret!

        Only Dyl, though, has actually lived in Florida recently: wouldn’t he (rather than Vicki) have the driver’s license, church letter, tax return, etc.? Dyl probably paid Florida taxes in his improbable role as middle-aged masseuse.

        I did see something online from early 2008 for Joe, too, that placed his professional profile as a lawyer firmly in Florida, not in Virginia or in the District.

        • AnnaZed
          11/20/2009 at 6:31 PM

          Smarmy in the blazing sun, having creepy Dylan lay hands on one’s corpus ~ icky.

          • CDinDC
            11/20/2009 at 11:00 PM

            Dylan would burn and peel.

            • Clio
              11/21/2009 at 12:29 AM

              So, CD, that Florida sunshine is partially the source of Mr. Ward’s especially furrowed brow; the other contributing factors being (possibly) his decadent and depraved behaviors learned in the District, of course.

        • Meto
          11/23/2009 at 4:22 PM

          Clio:

          I wonder what you saw in 2008 regarding Joe’ legal profile. I checked recently and the D.C. Bar listing for Joe has an e-mail address and no physical address. Did you look at D.C. Bar records on-line and now that has been changed, or did you look at something else?

          There are boatloads of D.C. bar admitted persons who maintain their offices throughout the U.S., but to be a practicing attorney you must have a license where you physically practice law. I have never seen “no address” listed at all. I guess D.C. must have given him the right to not post the address, but I wonder where the annual dues notice goes via snail mail?

          Respectfully,

          Meto

          • Clio
            11/23/2009 at 5:09 PM

            http://www.peekyou.com/joseph_price/145791200

            Here is the link. It features Florida locations much more than DC ones or Virginia currents.

            Google Joseph Price Virginia Beach and it’s the fourth item listed. The beach is West Palm Beach, alas!

            • Meto
              11/23/2009 at 6:55 PM

              Clio:

              Interesting. There appear to be two persons mixed up in this “peek” site. Both have multiple degrees. Are both lawyers? That may explain the other Florida reference (Coral Gables).

              Meto

          • Clio
            11/23/2009 at 5:31 PM

            It’s a Peek You profile; I’ve tried posting it several times, but the posts apparently went off into cyberspace (probably because of the embedded link.)

            I have sent the link, therefore, by email to Editors Michael and Craig, who, I trust, will post it for everyone’s assessment.

            Most interesting is the prominence of Florida locales and people at Joe’s profile. Culuket was definitely over Virginia, but, ironically, he is now forced to stay in McLean, just like Dyl.

            • CDinDC
              11/23/2009 at 5:46 PM

              I think at one time several of us tried to access the Florida bar info. But if I recall correctly, it’s closed to public query.

              Bea, didn’t you try researching this?

              • CDinDC
                11/23/2009 at 5:49 PM

                Hmm….I just did a quick search and turned up 2 entries for Joseph Price. Neither our guy. Maybe he was setting up his illegal practice. LOL

                2 Members Found – Search again

                N Joseph Edwin Price Jr. Fort Lauderdale, FL
                E Joseph Robert Price III Clearwater, FL

                • Meto
                  11/23/2009 at 6:44 PM

                  Craig:

                  I noted that on Florida Bar information. It is interesting that a Joseph Robert Price III is listed in Clearwater. That should not be “our” Joe Price, but his middle initial is “R”. This Price was admitted in 2001.

                  The other Joseph Price is deceased.

                  Virginia Bar information is closed perhaps that is what someone saw.

                  Respectfully,

                  Meto

                  • Bea
                    11/23/2009 at 6:58 PM

                    Our Joseph is “Joseph Ray” – it’s unlikely he’d be able to sit for any bar right now since these charges go to the heart of “moral turpitude” – ones with these issues can’t take the exam. CD, I think Virginia’s bar membership is ‘closed’ and I couldn’t find any relevant listings in Florida (or tried once and failed before finding it). Many state bar members continue to keep ‘old’ state bar memberships alive even though they don’t live there, and it doesn’t surprise me that Joe’s DC bar membership lists the email address (though the bar itself would have a mailing address).

                    I too search periodically to see if Joe’s hung out a shingle somewhere to bring in some extra cash – while he’s still allowed to practice – though I suspect he knows that he’d have trouble getting real clients. For a while, Victor had a marketing consulting firm listed on LinkedIn (VJZ Marketing, I think) but it’s gone too. Guess Aunt Marcia’s paying for the groceries and takes them shoe shopping once in a while.

                    Like the supporters who may only support one/two of the defendants, I wonder if Needham is nice to Joe & Victor – if he knows, deep down, that he can’t throw them under the bus without Dyl going with them. What Aunt Marcia thinks she’d doing is beyond me – you’d think she’d try to separate her nephew from the ones dragging him into the abyss.

                    • AnnaZed
                      11/23/2009 at 8:21 PM

                      Ok, that’s it, case closed. Joe did it.

                      I have solid proof now, and here it is:

                      My mother always told me never to have anything to do with any man who had any of these three names as his middle name: Wayne, Ray or Earl.

                      Prisons are full to bursting with these guys, it’s like a tramp stamp for the soul. Defense would be well advised to keep this piece of information to themselves; the reaction is visceral and probably unacknowledged by most right thinking Southerners, but believe you me ~ it’s there.

                      Joesph Ray is an A-list cracker-criminal name. Not the kind of A-list Joe was aspiring to, but … ah well … sometimes heredity is destiny.

                      The government on the other hand would be well advised to call Joe “Joe~Ray” all through the entire trial without cease.

                    • Clio
                      11/23/2009 at 9:18 PM

                      While, as a muse, I cannot condone the classism in your last post, AZ, that “tramp stamp for the soul” line did make me laugh uncontrollably in a knowing way. Thank you for that! When I think of the word Ray, though, I do think of assassin James Earl Ray, who, I guess in your line of argument, was doubly cursed by his name.

                      Joe’s bio-parents were quite young when he was born: I guess that they skipped the memo on Ray as a middle name. At any rate, a little bird told me that they divorced when Joe was 3. Joe Ray had to fend for himself, along with Michael and their other baby brother, quite early on.

            • Craig
              11/23/2009 at 6:22 PM

              Posted. WordPress hates links sometimes in the comments.

              Try and outsmart it by using “dot com,” etc.

              • Clio
                11/23/2009 at 6:42 PM

                Thanks, Craig!

    • CDinDC
      11/20/2009 at 6:04 PM

      2 proofs from this list, SKS:

      1.Driver’s License
      2.Automobile Registration (not leased)
      3.Voter Registration
      4.1040 Income Tax Return filed in 5.Florida or W-2 Form addressed in Florida
      6.Intangible Tax Return filed from Florida
      7.Florida Unemployment Compensation Registration
      8.Employment letter with Employer’s letterhead
      9.Child School report card or School letter attesting child’s registration
      10.Moving van receipt from another county or state
      11.Doctor’s letter with Doctor’s letterhead
      12Church letter with Church letterhead
      13.SSA-1099 fiscal year Social Security Statement addressed in Florida

      • Meto
        11/20/2009 at 9:48 PM

        From first hand experience, I note that our Editors work very hard. I probably always knew that, but Craig’s efforts regarding what I submitted to the Editors were quite substantial and valuable. Thanks to our editors who work harder than we probably realize.

        I self-edited my submission to our Editors because it was too long even before they chose to divide it into two posts. So if I may note some things that I cut out of the post: (1) the homestead exemption applies in a municipality only to a property at or less than 1/2 acre; it should come as no surprise to anyone on this blog that the property in question is less than 1/2 acre – between 1/5 and 1/4 acre – it appears to qualify under the size rule; and (2) the homestead exemption Constitutional provision in Florida is broader than some of the implementing statutory provisions adopted by the legislature. So if one looks at the the statute one might conclude that the benefit is more limited than Courts have found it to be under the Florida Constitution.

        I reserve further comments until after Part II is posted for obvious reasons.

        Respectfully,

        Meto

        • Craig
          11/21/2009 at 11:30 AM

          Thanks Meto – Smart guys like you make not-so-smart guys like us look…. smart(er).

          Reader submissions, whether they be in the deep weeds of mind-numbing real estate law, or concerning broader subjects are always welcome.

        • Craig
          11/23/2009 at 4:29 PM

          Part II should be up on Wednesday. Just in time for the holidays!

          • Clio
            11/23/2009 at 8:19 PM

            And, just in time for Mr. Ward to share any of his holiday recipes with his dwindling base. Is the Food page at WMRW.com still seeking submissions? Dyl may need the “pin money” for Xmas: LOL!

  4. Clio
    11/21/2009 at 4:59 PM

    How and why did Dylan get the job in Florida? Is there a demand for Thai-style masseurs who can cook and who can write children’s books in Wilton Manors? Did Dyl serve as a scout for his master and mistress?

    • Craig
      11/21/2009 at 9:52 PM

      Clio: Equality Virginia > A.B. Data > Chi Spa is indeed a peculiar career progression.

      On beyond Meto’s look at the state’s friendly personal property protections, the question remains, why Florida and why that particular timing?

      Sounds like a good assignment for someone’s first guest post. Show of hands?

      Also ahead: The start of the holidays sees the return of wmrw’s editorial cartoonist, Thomas Nasty and a new site feature.

      • Bea
        11/21/2009 at 9:58 PM

        I suspect that Joe needed some “Victor-Alone time” to smooth over some long-ruffled feathers, declare that Victor’s always been No. 1 (no, not like that), and whether it was having Dyl away at Thai cooking school or just away in Florida, it didn’t matter. Joe just needed space to work some magic on Victor.

        • Clio
          11/21/2009 at 11:31 PM

          True, Bea.

          For Dyl, though, exile in Thailand and then in Florida may have been the culmination of his coming out as a trickster slut whose debauchery knew no bounds. No longer bound by propriety to have a “respectable” office job after the scandal, Dylan may have thought that he had nothing to lose by (possibly)becoming the bodyworker in public that he had been for Joe in private.

          “So, Wilton Manors, here I come!”, exclaimed Mr. Ward. He never guessed that he would be back in McLean Hamlet this year; Chi Spa with its endless and friendly male clientele seemed to be where he was most at peace with himself. Of course, that clientele would not ask many critical or uncomfortable questions in return for a facial or a stone treatment.

          Chi means life force, and the Royal Thai treatment still offered by that “spa” involves unleashing that force in part via acupuncture. Of course, on 08/02/06, a life force was snuffed out, facilitated probably by punctures of some sort. So, was Dyl’s working there at Chi Spa a bizarre and selfish act of contrition?

      • CDinDC
        11/22/2009 at 12:47 PM

        Craig says: “Equality Virginia > A.B. Data > Chi Spa is indeed a peculiar career progression.”

        Perhaps Dylan’s career REgression reflects his state-of-mind. Not so lofty career goals could be a result of a progressive decline in Dylan’s mental state. Depression and lack of self-esteem (after all, he was just a boy-toy) slowed his efforts to be somebody and content with being somebody’s body.

        • Clio
          11/22/2009 at 1:18 PM

          At Chi Spa, though, Mr. Ward was free from the watchful eye and insatiable bottom of Mr. Price: he now could become everybody’s body, even if he was earning a stipend as housesitter from his DC patron.

  5. Perplexed
    11/22/2009 at 12:09 AM

    The catch is it may be able to be easily provable that they did it under fraud – they purchased it after the act and knowing they might be sued – so deliberately to shield their assets – had Kathy already filed her civil suit?

    • Meto
      11/22/2009 at 10:21 AM

      To Perplexed:

      I take a stab at answering the question in your Nov. 22 – 12:09 a.m. post in Part II of what I submitted to the editors last week. But even then, as you will see, I have far more questions than actual answers. The Editors, quite rightly, thought my musings were more than a tad too long and so you get multiple doses, sorry.

      This is probably one reason I don’t twitter. Of course, Caesar disapproves of twittering anyway as it gives away too much of his strategies.

      Respectfully,

      Meto

  6. Perplexed
    11/22/2009 at 11:33 AM

    lol! I can completely relate. I have the same difficulty – so much to say – so little white space! Thx for chiming in recently btw – really nice to get a perspective from your vantage point. And taking it slow to sort through your feelings when thinking about this is not a bad thing – it just shows you were a good friend and trying not to be hurried in your judgment that you don’t mistakenly combine fact with fiction.

  7. Clio
    11/23/2009 at 1:13 AM

    An aside: Joe and Victor are not very good at timing the real estate market. They bought 1509 Swann at the top of the market (which Joe highlighted to Detective Folts in the infamous ride to Anacostia), and now their Florida retirement home is steadily losing its value. I wonder what their monthly Miami mortgage payment is, and if they are having any trouble in making it.

    • Meto
      11/23/2009 at 10:24 AM

      Clio:

      According to public documents on the internet, the mortgage is held by Wells Fargo. I have not puzzled out whether one can, on the internet, find the Deed of Trust; this Meto is not going to engage in any non-public investigation. Yet.

      What we know is that the sale went through at $715,000. If you can wait for Part II, we do know that there is a significant payment due in 7 days. Render unto Caesar and all that. . . .

      Nonetheless you put your finger on a critical question, in addition to all the legal fees, where is all the money coming from to support such expenses? Perhaps the possibility of a rental takes some of the financial pressure off, but if the property is rented then I have more questions about the property tax portion of the Homestead Exemption.

      Respectfully,

      Meto

      • Perplexed
        11/24/2009 at 9:47 PM

        The deeds are usually on record with the Registry of Deeds and many of them have them online. I’ll take a look – used to do title searches in a former life. Almost everyone in FL files for a homestead exemption – for some reason it’s the norm. And most get away with it.

  8. Perplexed
    11/24/2009 at 9:57 PM

    Meto: Are you looking for the actual Deed, which I have found or what looks like the 2 mortgages, which I have found….I think they might call those Deeds of Trust…it’s different in every state…but in FL they are referred to as the Deed and the Mortgage…

    • Meto
      11/25/2009 at 10:55 AM

      Perplexed:

      Thanks – you are right on target. A mortgage is usually secured by a Deed of Trust at least in this region, but different states have different property laws so I believe that what you have provided is precisely what I did not find for myself.

      What you sent the editors, does it include interest rate and monthly payment amounts? For the “sort of ” Line of Credit is there a formula for establishing the interest rate and can you tell how much is actually borrowed as opposed to maximum lending available? Just wondering.

      The principal point is of course that this property requires monthly cash flow. Given what the defendants have said about liquidation of assets what does this mean? And where is the monthly cash coming from to maintain this property?

      Respectfully,

      Meto

      • Clio
        11/25/2009 at 2:18 PM

        Do you think the monthly cash is coming from Tacoma? Perhaps, that’s why Dyl has been embraced by the core couple again: he is a valuable asset to the Family, after all!

        • CDinDC
          11/25/2009 at 2:38 PM

          Joe’s motto is probably “use or be used.”

  9. Perplexed
    11/24/2009 at 10:13 PM

    There are 2 mortgages against the house – 1 for $417K and the other sort of LOC for $155 (40 years) and the Deed. I’ve emailed them to the authors who can post them if they wish. I don’t see any short payments due on those – unless you have info. on something else! 🙂

    • CDinDC
      11/25/2009 at 9:45 AM

      Perplexed, what is LOC?

      • Meto
        11/25/2009 at 10:50 AM

        CD:

        I believe Perplexed means a Line of Credit. The public document likely would not reveal, but Perplexed knows more than I do on this, the maximum level borrowed on the Line of Credit, but not the actual amount borrowed. Interesting because many Lines of Credit got canceled or maximum amounts lowered last year during the financial crisis.

        Part II of my post was written last week, so Perplexed’s valuable additions are not part of it- well to my knowledge anyway.

        Respectfully,

        Meto

        • CDinDC
          11/25/2009 at 11:18 AM

          Ah, yes. Line of Credit. Sort of like an equity loan, but used in drib and drabs instead of one big chunk.

          I took out a small equity loan about 10 years ago for a house project. I was offered a line of credit at that time, but opted for the straight out equity loan instead. From what I can remember, it was like a credit card. The mortgage company offered X amount and if I chose the Line of Credit, I could draw on it when needed to complete the project.

          I wonder what would Joe et al be using a line of credit for.

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