Did Mauricio Umansky dupe client? 'RHOBH' star Kyle Richards' husband sued for $35M by prospective buyer
MALIBU, CALIFORNIA: In December 2015, Mauricio Umansky obtained $32.5 million for the sale of a sizable property in Malibu. Seven years later, 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' star Kyle Richards' husband is still embroiled in a contentious legal dispute over the transaction, during which he was charged with deceiving a prospective buyer.
After Umansky's working relationship with the buyer, Mauricio Oberfeld, was revealed following the property's March 2017 flip for a staggering $69.9 million, Sam Hakim, who had been coveting the Malibu estate for years, and his broker, Aitan Segal, lodged continuing lawsuits against him. The Los Angeles Times reported on December 12 that after the government took ownership of the property and classified it for sale with Umansky's assistance in May 2015, he supposedly ignored Sam's offer, which was facilitated by Aitan, in favor of an offer from Oberfeld. "We have litigated many broker misconduct cases involving ultra-luxury residential properties in Southern California but have never encountered a case as unique and egregious as this one involving Mr Umansky," Sam's attorneys, Jennifer Shakouri and Alan Hearty, said in a statement to LA Times. Despite the fact that Aitan and Sam knew Umansky before the deal and trusted the realtor, they think he violated their rights, and Sam is seeking at least $35 million in damages in their merged litigation against him.
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Umansky, who has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, also provided LA Times with a statement. "With the rapid growth of the Agency and the recent launch of our Netflix series, we have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. It saddens me that others seek to diminish our success by rehashing old news about a transaction that closed in 2016. I will not comment on the specifics of the ongoing litigation except to say that the allegations are false, and I am extremely confident that we will prevail," he added.
The mansion was confiscated from rich African government figure Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is presently serving as the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, after he and his family were targeted by an international money laundering probe, as 'RHOBH' fans may recall. In 2006, he bought the Malibu house from Karen Rabe, whose family's production firm was behind 'Wheel of Fortune.' Teodoro agreed to sell his properties, including his house, for no less than $32 million, the fair market value at the time, after reaching a deal with the government in 2014. In addition, the government granted Mauricio's business a 6% commission as well as the authority to represent the buyer, resulting in a double profit on the transaction. Despite the fact that Oberfeld, the co-owner of a luxury house builder, won the property with a $33.5 million offer, maybe due to his "long friendship" and professional relationship with Umansky (Umansky was a member of Oberfeld's company), their flip raised eyebrows among other realtors. Teodoro then asked that Umansky attend mediation and seek $8 million in damages after learning that Umansky may have struck the arrangement with Oberfeld only for their own prospective profit, therefore lowering the property sale price.
Despite the fact that The Agency and Umansky sought to settle the dispute by filing a claim with their insurance, Western World, the business refused to pay and accused Umansky and his firm of concealing probable carelessness and breach of fiduciary and statutory responsibilities. After negotiating an undisclosed deal with the insurance company, Umansky was sued by Teodoro and eventually agreed to a payout similar to the highest offer on the residence. In their own litigation against Umansky, Aitan and Sam alleged that Aitan assured Umansky that Sam would pay "significantly more" than the asking price, between $40 million and $45 million. They further stated that they did not submit the offer in writing since Umansky informed them that the owner would not profit from the transaction. Five bids were eventually made on the property, with Oberfeld securing a price of $33.5 million in December 2015 before having $1 million deducted from the deal as part of a repair discount. After realizing he'd been outbid for the house, Sam wrote Oberfeld a letter offering him $8 million to buy out his bid. However, when the developer requested a $15 million buyout, Sam refused.
It wasn't until years later, in August 2018, when Sam learned Umansky and the Agency had been sued by their insurance, that he became suspicious of possible fraud and began to suspect Umansky never made his verbal promise to Teodoro. In his reaction to the charges, Umansky denied that there was a larger verbal offer, claiming that if he had actually indicated to pass on a $40 million offer, Sam would have recognized a red flag in the $33.5 million counter — and also wouldn't have waited so long to pursue legal action against him.
The group is currently battling over a series of emails exchanged in February 2016 that Oberfeld's attorneys are attempting to keep out of the lawsuit — but that Sam's attorneys think would assist establish that Umansky and Oberfeld were preparing to collaborate on the flip since Umansky got the listing. The emails, according to Oberfeld's attorneys, are confidential attorney-client communications. Umansky also stated that he had only recently become involved with Oberfeld's firm in June 2016. Meanwhile, in a June judgment, Judge Mark Epstein stated that records proved there was a "concrete February 2016 plan for a joint partnership that had long been in the works."
While working together in the manner that Umansky and Oberfeld may have done is lawful, all parties must be aware of such a collaboration. "Mr. Oberfeld was invited to bid on the Sweetwater Mesa property and submitted a good-faith bid on the property without any knowledge of any offer by Mr. Hakim. Mr. Oberfeld’s bid was accepted only after another buyer’s offer did not work out. Mr. Oberfeld did absolutely nothing wrong and will eventually be fully vindicated in this case," Oberfeld's attorneys stated in a statement to LA Times. If Umansky, Oberfeld, and the other parties cannot reach an agreement, they will go to mediation this week, followed by a trial in 2023.