Real estate tycoon Mohamed Hadid is a ‘bully’ who turned his neighbors’ lives into a ‘nightmare of constant fear, stress and anxiety’ when he built a massive, illegal mansion above their homes, a lawyer told a court in Santa Monica, CA today.
‘They’re heroes,’ Gary Lincenberg said of the neighbors he’s representing on the first day of Hadid’s civil trial which could cost him millions if he loses.
‘They are standing up to a bully in this case.’
Lincenberg – who accused Hadid of bribing Los Angeles City inspectors to ignore building permit violations – asked the jury of four women and eight men to give substantial damages to the neighbors – Joe Bibi Horacek and John and Judy Bedrosian.
‘We ask that you award economic damage’ to compensate them for the ‘loss of use and enjoyment of their homes’ and the ‘stress and anxiety, the constant fear and sleepless night,’ they have suffered for the last nine years while the giant house looming over them was under construction.
‘The nightmare continues today…..’ he added. “Hadid should not be allowed to get away with this.
Hadid, pictured on Thursday, is a ‘bully’ who turned his neighbors’ lives into a ‘nightmare of constant fear, stress and anxiety’ when he built a massive, illegal mansion above their homes, a lawyer told a court
Mohamed Hadid was less than thrilled to talk outside a Santa Monica courthouse Thursday as he showed up for the final day of jury selection for his trial which could last four to five weeks
A judge ordered Hadid’s mega-mansion to be torn down out of safety concerns, saying it was a nuisance and a danger to the public but it is yet to be demolished
‘But what you will never hear from Hadid is an apology or any remorse.’
Hadid’s attorney, Jeff Reeves responded by accusing neighbor Horacek – founding member of a powerful LA law firm – of trying to extort $3.5 million from Hadid in exchange for using his influence to make the developer’s problems with the city over his mansion project ‘go away.’
‘Mr. Horacek saw an opportunity to shake down a celebrity family for a few million dollars,’ Reeves told the court in his opening address.
When Hadid refused to pay up, added Reeves, Horacek reported building permit violations to the City – which ordered Hadid to stop work and revoked his permits on the house he once hoped to sell for $100 million.
‘This case is about vengeance because Mr. Hadid did not comply.
Mr. Horacek, with his powerful law firm, pursued vengeance…with a vengeance.’
The ‘monstrosity’ on a hillside in upscale Bel Air should have been torn down by now, thanks to a demolition order made almost two years ago by Judge Craig Karlan – the same judge overseeing today’s trial – who declared the half-built house to be a ‘clear and present danger’ to the community around it
It’s still standing because Hadid, 72 – once a multi-millionaire – claims he doesn’t have the $5 million it would cost to demolish it. And a buyer who had offered $9 million to purchase the building – and tear it down – recently backed out of the deal.
Hadid puts most of the blame for his troubles on ‘nightmare neighbor’ Joe Horacek (pictured in front of his home with Hadid’s home in the background), who he says became ‘obsessed’ with the case
Neighbors have been fighting for years for the demolition of the property because of all the alleged unapproved construction. The development of the home has also been an eyesore to nearby residents and now a danger due to heavy Los Angeles rain
Attorney Gary Lincenberg pointed out that according to expert opinion, piles supporting the house – which were not sunk deep enough into the hillside to comply with local building codes – ‘will fail in the event of a 24-year earthquake or a 10-20-year rain event’
Lincenberg, on behalf of the neighbors, filed a motion last week in Judge Karlan’s court, blasting the City of LA for allowing Hadid to get away with building his giant, illegal house in the first place and demanding that the city destroy it immediately because of the threat it poses to the nearby homes it towers over.
That motion was still pending today as Lincenberg began his opening statements to the jury in the trial that’s expected to last four or five weeks.
The neighbors, led by Joe Horacek, 79 – a retired entertainment lawyer with the firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, whose clients have included movie star Michael Douglas and TV’s Dr. Phil – were in court today, except for John Bedrosian who is in his 80s and is recovering from a broken hip.
Hadid – father of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid – is also countersuing Horacek, whom he claims has a ‘personal vendetta’ against him and tried to extort $3.5 million from him in exchange for dropping his complaints to LA City about the growing house, dubbed the ‘Starship Enterprise’ because it’s so huge.
Lincenberg told the court today that Hadid committed ‘the most shocking violations’ of LA’s Department of Building and Safety’s building codes, ignored repeated ‘stop work’ orders from the City and tried to ‘cover up’ illegal building work.
‘He completely misled the City and the neighborhood with his fraudulent plans. He told judges he would fix it.
‘There is evidence that Mr. Hadid bribed City inspectors to sign off on construction work that was violations of City codes.’
Lincenberg showed the jury a rendering of the house design originally approved by City planners. The rendering showed a house of about 15,000 square feet and was posted outside the site when construction began.
But neighbors quickly realized that the mansion going up above their homes ‘was quite different’ from the rendering. The actual building turned out to be a ‘massive structure of 35,000 square feet, that included an IMAX Theater.
Hadid told his workers to hide their work behind false walls and tarps when they learned City inspectors were about to visit,’ said Lincenberg.
Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father faces $60 million in losses over his condemned Los Angeles mega-mansion
‘He also had a double set of books, a double set of plans, one that was completely unpermitted.
‘Did he he follow ’stop work’ orders – not for a second. Her did not want to comply with orders.
‘He pulled off this fraud over a number of years – nine years ofd repeated violations.’
Hadid illegally re-graded the hillside where the gargantuan house sits making it much steeper, and piles – an essential part of the foundations – supporting the house that were supposed to have been sunk into then hillside 30 feet, were only sunk 20 feet,’added Lincenberg.
‘“IM’m worried this building will slide down a hill and kill somebody,” Hadid’s own architect was quoted as saying, said Lincenberg – who quoted one LA city inspector, on touring the property, as saying, ‘I think somebody in our department must have been bribed.’
As for Hadid’s counter suit claiming Horacek tried to extort millions to make the controversial building project’s problems with the city go away, Lincenberg recounted a ‘settlement meeting’ between the two in which Horacek was complained that his home’s value had decreased because of the giant house nearby.
Hadid has claimed he doesn’t have $5million to pay for the demolition and a buyer who offered $9 million to purchase the property and knock it down backed out
In the meeting, which Hadid secretly taped, according to Lincenberg, Hadid says, ‘Let’s say I give you $2 million….I wanna work with you Joe…..We’ll figure out a number.’
The attorney added, ‘This was Hadid trying to bribe Mr. Horacek.’
But Hadid’s attorney, Jeff Reeves, put a completely different spin pin the taped meeting saying Horacek ‘tried to shake down Mr Hadid for $3.5 million – and another witness said it went up to $5.8 million.’
Describing Hadid as an ‘artist’ whose works of art are big, beautiful houses, Reeves told the court that when Hadid brought his building project to the well-heeledBel Air neighborhood, ‘Horacek saw him as an outsider, not a member of the elite Bel Air Club….He was different.’
Horacek looked at some of Hadid’s earlier multi-million house projects and ‘he saw dollar signs,’
Reeves said Horacek wanted $3.5 million from Hadid to help keep him out of trouble with the city over his building violations.
‘But Mr. Hadid said no because on principle he wasn’t going to give in to a shakedown like that.’
Afterward, said Reeves, Horacek followed through on his threat to poison Hadid’s project with the city.
‘Horacek won. He pulled it off, just like he said he would. The city stopped the project just like that.
‘But Mr. Horacek was not satisfied……He wants to destroy the man (Hadid) personally, ostracize him from the Bel Air community.’
Mohamed Hadid, father of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid, went on trial this week over his disaster Los Angeles mega-mansion that was illegally built
Judge Karlan ordered the home to be demolished almost two years ago and declared the half-built house to be a ‘clear and present danger’ to the community around it. Pictured: Judge Karlan inspecting Hadid’s mansion in Bel Air in 2019
Reeves – who asked the jury to award Hadid cash damages for Horacek’s attempted extortion – said that Horacek could have reported Hadid to the city for permit violations back in 2012 but he waited because he was hoping Hadid would pay him the $3.5 million.
But by the time Horacek took his complaints to the City because Hadid refused to pay him, it was 2014, added Reeves. And he argued, when Horacek and his fellow neighbors filed their lawsuit against Hadid in 2018, the statute of limitation had passed.
Reeves – who told the court that Hadid had spent $30 million of his on money on his beloved 901 Strada Vecchia mega mansion – said that ‘the whole theory that City inspectors were bribed is absurd.’
As for the neighbors’ contention that the mansion is a dangerous nuisance to the community, Reeves added: ‘The evidence does not support the the building its in immediate danger of falling down the hill.
‘There were code violations but the house its not in imminent danger of collapse.’
Hadid declared last October that he’s broke – facing a whopping $60 million in losses over the headline-making mega-mansion.
The Palestinian-American mogul also contended that he owes $15 million in court judgements against him, he’s had to ‘drastically downsize’ from a 48,000 square foot home to a more ‘modest’ one, he’s made no money from the caviar and champagne products that carry his name, and his famous daughters’ eyewear line – also using the Hadid brand – has gone belly up.
He has tried several legal moves to try to stop or delay the wrecking ball. First he filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming he ‘couldn’t afford’ the $5 million demo cost. That was dismissed.
Then he filed an appeal against Judge Karlan’s order to tear down the giant house. That too was denied.
Attorney Gary Lincenberg filed a motion last week ‘requiring the City to demolish the structure at 901 Strada Vecchia (the address of Hadid’s mega-mansion)’
In May last year he launched a desperate bid to save his building project by asking California’s Supreme Court to send the case back to Judge Karlan’s court. But the state’s highest court torpedoed his efforts, refusing even to hear the case.
Then, in a last-ditch move, Hadid’s lawyers filed a second appeal – this time against Judge Karlan’s decision to appoint a receiver to oversee destruction of the house. He lost that appeal as well.
Hadid’s mammoth house was originally permitted for 15,000 square feet but it grew to more than 30,000 square feet with much of that additional construction illegal.
He ignored orders from Los Angeles City to stop building and in December 2015, in an almost-unprecedented move, the city decided to prosecute him criminally.
He pleaded no contest to three criminal charges involving illegal construction and in July 2017 he was told he would serve a 180-day jail sentence if he didn’t reduce the size of the house and bring it into compliance with city building codes – or demolish it – within the three years of probation the judge also imposed.
In addition, he was fined $3,000, ordered to pay $14,191 in fees to LA city, and serve 200 hours of community service.
A few months after Hadid’s criminal convictions and sentences, his neighbors – unhappy with what they saw as a slap on the wrist from the criminal court – filed their civil lawsuit against him and today, more than three years later, they’re getting their day in court.