Patricia Marsch was the 2012–2013 president of Las Patronas, the philanthropic organization that annually puts on the Beautiful People’s biggest social event of the year, the Jewel Ball at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.
On May 30 of last year, the La Jolla Light wrote a rave story about Mrs. Marsch. The publication asked her, “What is it that you dislike most?”
Her response: “Dishonesty and lack of compassion.” (Italics mine.)
Hmmm... Her husband, Nicolas Marsch III, and his company, Briarwood Capital, last month were hit with a $1 billion judgment for smearing a company. A Florida jury awarded the big Florida builder, Lennar Corporation, $802 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages for defamation and conspiracy. Lennar does not expect to get the money because Nicolas Marsch and Briarwood are in Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy.
This story goes back a long way. In the late 1990s, Marsch and Lennar formed a partnership to develop a luxury golf community called the Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe. Marsch and Briarwood later sued Lennar for breach of contract, expecting a fat payment. Marsch wrote Lennar directors threatening to expose “dirty little secrets” if they didn’t cave in to his demands. Marsch hired San Diego con man/born-again minister/fraud sleuth Barry Minkow, who publicly proclaimed that Lennar was run like a Ponzi scheme. Lennar stock plunged. Lennar sued Minkow and Marsch for defamation and extortion. Then a San Diego judge said Marsch owed Lennar $54 million, rather than Lennar owing Marsch from the Bridges deal.
Marsch and Briarwood went into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that was later converted to Chapter 7. Minkow pleaded guilty to conspiracy, manipulating the stock market and engaging in insider trading, and is now serving a five-year sentence in prison. He readily admitted his guilt, then told Fortune magazine that the real cause of his bad behavior was drugs: 1400 milligrams a day of OxyContin.
Marsch says he has been bullied by Lennar and Florida judges in the company’s pocket.
But what of Patricia Marsch’s disdain for dishonesty? Jose M. Rodriguez, state circuit court judge in Miami, said, “The evidence of the continuous and intentional misconduct perpetrated by Defendant Nicolas Marsch is overwhelming.” Alleging that, among other things, Marsch concealed evidence, Rodriguez entered a default judgment against Marsch.
Judge Peter W. Bowie of the bankruptcy court in San Diego flayed Marsch’s “dishonest testimony under oath” at a critical meeting. “This Court has lost confidence in Mr. Marsch’s capacity for candor and honesty.” Bowie booted Marsch out of Briarwood and put it under a trustee’s control.
San Diego superior court judge William Nevitt Jr., who presided over Marsch’s suit against Lennar, said Marsch’s explanation of events “did not withstand close scrutiny and cross-examination.” The judge said Marsch “repeatedly gave false testimony on material issues.”
San Diego superior court judge Lorna Alksne, after hearing a case in which Marsch wanted the court to slap down Lennar’s president, said, “Mr. Marsch’s sworn declaration in support of his petition was false and misleading.”
In a suit that Lennar filed against Marsch, Briarwood, and Minkow, protesting Marsch’s attempt to escape paying court-ordered damages, Miami state circuit court judge John W. Thornton said that Marsch destroyed and deleted evidence. “Since this case began over five years ago, Marsch has consistently and unabashedly refused to comply with this Court’s orders,” said Thornton, blasting “Marsch’s corruption of the litigation process.”
On April 26, 2012 — almost two years after her husband and Briarwood filed for bankruptcy — Patricia Marsch was deposed under oath by a Lennar lawyer. She said she gave her husband $128,333 of jewelry and $70,000 in cashier’s checks. She admitted it was to make the money inaccessible to Lennar, the major creditor in the bankruptcy procedure.
“We can’t comment on any specific case, but concealment of assets in a bankruptcy is obviously prohibited,” says Jane Limprecht, spokesperson for the Executive Office for United States Trustees in San Diego.
“Lennar has undue influence on the courts in Miami,” Nicolas Marsch claims. “Those judges don’t write the orders. Lennar writes them and the judges sign simply where indicated.” (In a deposition, when asked about one judge’s various opinions, he responded, consecutively, “absolute bullshit, total bullshit, complete crap.”)
If Florida judges are biased, what about three San Diego judges who didn’t believe him? Marsch criticizes them, too. He says Lennar has spent $100 million “just suing us.” General Motors spent $110 million on its extremely complicated bankruptcy. Lennar’s key lawyer was Daniel Petrocelli of Los Angeles’s O’Melveny & Myers, who handled the wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and represented former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling. Petrocelli’s modus operandi is “to wreck our credibility, call you names, put pressure on you in terms of spending.”
Vows Marsch, “This isn’t nearly over. We will appeal the Florida thing.” After a few more words, he hung up on me. I was not able to reach Patricia Marsch.
Responds Petrocelli, “The proof is in the pudding. Every court that has heard Marsch’s story and testimony related to Lennar has concluded that he has been untruthful.” Lennar won’t say how much it has spent on the Marsch, Briarwood, and Minkow cases but admits it has been a bundle because Marsch keeps coming back for more and filing more cases.
Minkow originally went to prison as a young man for pulling a gigantic Ponzi scheme. Then he found religion and was released early and helped government agencies sniff out fraud. In 1997, he was named head pastor of San Diego Community Bible Church, where he was a prodigious fund-raiser and soul-saver. He spent half his time at his Fraud Discovery Institute, which got some fat settlements from companies he exposed — but his errant attack on Lennar was his undoing. Marsch still insists that he and Minkow did not exchange many emails — but courts convincingly say otherwise.
Since 1974, Marsch and his entities have been in courts as plaintiffs or defendants more than 75 times. San Diego attorney Todd Macaluso represented Marsch for three years in the Lennar imbroglio. Marsch suddenly fired him and is now claiming malpractice. Macaluso refuses to comment on the malpractice charge or other aspects of the case.