By Kevin Deutsch
13th Floor Homes is hitting back over allegations made by a father-son business duo claiming the developer improperly hid arsenic contamination from Tamarac home buyers, calling the claims “unfounded and frivolous.”
The question of whether more than 200 properties purchased by homeowners at Central Parc South were contaminated by arsenic—and the buyers never informed of the carcinogen’s presence—emerged as a key issue in the corruption case of former Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech this month, when his alleged co-conspirators filed documents alleging the arsenic cover-up.
Cernech, 53, of Parkland, is being prosecuted by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody for allegedly helping convicted felons Bruce and Shawn Chait extort Arnaud Karsenti—the founder of 13th Floor Investments—as he sought to win City Commission approval for a current Tamarac development project the Chaits also claimed was contaminated by arsenic.
In exchange for a $3.4 million payoff from Karsenti, the Chaits’ vowed to cease their years-long harassment and intimidation campaign they and their allies waged against Karsenti by publicizing false evidence—including lawsuits— claiming the Sabal Palm and Monterrey golf courses on which 13th Floor built the Manor Parc, and Central Parc developments were environmentally tainted by arsenic, prosecutors said.
On Sunday, 13th Floor issued a statement vehemently denying the Chaits’ allegations of impropriety.
“After being arrested and [jailed] for undertaking an alleged extortion attempt against 13th Floor, convicted felons Bruce and Shawn Chait are now trying to frame their acts as an attempt to provide a public service,” the company’s statement reads. “We believe the Court and, eventually, a jury will see this for exactly what it is: the latest episode in a long pattern of the Chaits breaking the law to enrich themselves”
“Unlike the Chaits, 13th Floor has a long history of compliance with the law and development regulations,” the statement continues. “13th Floor performed a multimillion-dollar remediation project over several years that adhered to strict quality control and regulatory guidelines. This process was managed by an independent environmental engineering firm that provided frequent reporting and was closely monitored by the Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department of Broward County.”
The company said the assessments of the property “arrived at the same conclusion: 13th Floor only began transferring ownership of homes once the land met all applicable regulatory standards and earned a clean bill of health from Broward County and independent engineers.”
“As a result of these extensive remediation efforts, Broward County deemed the property safe for residential living, and any claim to the contrary is unfounded and frivolous.”
Cernech was arrested in August 2021 and charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering under the RICO statutes, a result of his allegedly working with the Chaits to pressure Karsenti into paying the extortion money,
The Chaits have a history of criminal corruption in Tamarac and Broward County; partaking in an earlier bribery scandal, two Tamarac officials were implicated and arrested, and a county commissioner was sent to prison.
In court papers filed this month as part of their and Cernech’s corruption case, the Chaits dropped a bombshell:
“Arnaud Karsenti says he was ‘threatened,’” the Chaits’ lawyers wrote in a motion seeking documents. “Did he feel threatened because Bruce Chait would reveal the truth — that the residential lots at Central Park South have an unlawful level of arsenic?”
The defense filing seeks documents related to “the arsenic condition of the residential lots at Central Parc South,” the lawyers wrote, claiming prosecutors are refusing to obtain and turn over the records.
“The missing documents are essential…they relate to the arsenic levels on the 200+ lots at Central Parc South….there is no proof in the public record that the 200+ homebuyers ever saw these documents,”
Arsenic contamination can impact the health of the residents who reside near a contaminated golf course. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, long-term exposure to low concentrations of arsenic in the air and drinking water can lead to skin, bladder, lung, kidney, and prostate cancers.
Cernech, who pleaded not guilty, is currently free on a $200,000 bond.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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