The original federal securities class action lawsuit was commenced in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Fort Myers Division), on behalf of all persons who purchased one or more real properties for investment purposes from First Home Builders of Florida, a Florida general partnership (“First Home”) in Cape Coral, Florida or Lehigh Acres, Florida between September 1, 2003 and December 31, 2005 (the “Class Period”), based upon representations made by First Home and/or its agents, including the real estate brokerage firm of D’Alessandro & Woodyard, Inc. (“D&W”), that: (a) investors would receive a fourteen percent (14%) or greater return on their investment based upon a tenant occupying, and then purchasing, each property; (b) the tenants for each property would be procured solely through the efforts and expertise of First Home and/or D&W (and/or their respective affiliates or co-brokers); and (c) no further cash outlay would be required from investors other than the initial contract deposit.
The Complaint alleges that First Home, D&W, and several of its officers and directors, violated the federal securities laws by issuing materially false and misleading statements to prospective investors in order to induce them to purchase real estate investment properties from First Home. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants fraudulently induced investors to purchase real estate investment properties in Lee County, Florida by promising that: (a) defendants would procure tenants for all properties purchased by investors; (b) the rental income generated from these tenants would cover all of the investor’s mortgage expenses: and (c) investors would receive a guaranteed 14% return on their investment after the first year. These representations were knowingly false and misleading at the time that they were made.
On October 15, 2007, the Court entered the Order directing the filing of the Amended Complaint on or before October 19, 2007. Further, according to the Order, the defendants’ various motions to dismiss were denied as moot. On October 19, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a First Amended Class Action Complaint. Since November 30, 2007, the defendants filed several motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint. On September 29, 2008, the Court entered the Opinion and Order signed by U.S. District Judge John E. Steele granting in part and denying in part as moot several motions to dismiss filed by the defendants. The First Amended Class Action Complaint was dismissed without prejudice and plaintiffs were granted leave to file a second amended complaint.
On October 31, 2008, the plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint. On January 9, 2009, the defendants filed several motions to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. On September 10, 2009, Judge John E. Steele signed the Opinion and Order ruling on the defendants’ eight pending motions to dismiss. The Opinion and Order granted in part and denied in part certain Counts of the Second Amended Complaint for each motion. Two motions for reconsideration of the September 10, 2009 Order have been filed.
On April 28, 2010, Judge John E. Steele granted #292 motion for reconsideration to the extent that the 290 Opinion and Order has been reconsidered and is hereby amended to grant the motions to dismiss relating to Count VII as to paragraphs 137(a) and (b) only, which are stricken, and grant the motions to dismiss as to Count VIII, which is dismissed, but with no change to Count IX. Judge Steele also granted #295 motion for reconsideration but finding no change will be made as to defendant Robb and Count IX. On July 20, 2010, an Opinion and Order was entered amending the September 10, 2009 Order, dismissing Counts I and II on statute of limitations grounds and dismissing Counts III and IV as to the Eshkenazi plaintiffs as to all defendants.
On September 2, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify the class. On September 9, 2011, a notice of tentative settlement was filed. On October 17, 2011, Judge John E. Steele preliminarily approved proposed settlement in the amount of $3.6 million. The payment shall be divided between two groups. The fairness hearing is set for November 15, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. An Amended Preliminary Approval Order was filed on October 18, 2011. The fairness hearing was set for December 6, 2011.
According to the Final Order signed by Judge John E. Steele on December 6, 2011, the motion for judgment, approval of settlement, and class certification was granted. The Court granted the motion for attorney fees and Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. was awarded $1,080,000.00 in attorneys' fees and $50,000.00 in costs and expenses. Judgment was entered and the case is now dismissed with prejudice.