Condo buyers use Cosmopolitan opening as stage for protest


While The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas celebrated its opening, more than three dozen condo buyers at the property gathered across the street Wednesday night to protest the company's efforts that have blocked them from moving in or even seeing their units.

"I paid my deposit in May 2005, and I was supposed to close on my condo in early 2008," said Benny Perry. "I wanted a refund, but they insisted on an offer of 75 percent of my deposit. I rejected it. It's a black-and-white issue. Either they are right for keeping my deposit, or I should receive a refund."

Perry said his original deposit was $116,000. He was joined by other angry condominium buyers who carried signs under the watchful eyes of hotel security and Las Vegas police officers.

The signs read "Stop the Scam," "Deutsche Bank is a Fraud" and "Why would you Gamble here? They Cheat!"

Lori Valencia, who carried a sign asking "Where is my Deposit?," said it's been five and a half years since she put down $140,000 to move into a condominium at The Cosmopolitan.

"I want to see my unit," Valencia said. "My unit isn't being built. If it is ... it won't be ready until late 2011."

The original developer, 3700 Associates, led by Ian Bruce Eichner, broke ground on the hotel-casino in October 2005 with an initial cost of $1.8 billion. The company defaulted on a $760 million construction loan in January 2008, and Deutsche Bank AG eventually foreclosed on the property in August 2008.

Earlier this year, The Cosmopolitan canceled plans for condominiums, leaving its 2,995 rooms as only hotel rooms. The Cosmopolitan is in the middle of a legal battle with more than 200 prospective owners.

In April, Cosmopolitan developers completed a $60 million settlement with more than 400 buyers involved in a class action lawsuit. When Deutsche Bank took over, buyers had paid deposits of 20 percent to secure one of the planned high-six-figure to low-seven-figure condominiums.

In a recent interview, Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin declined to comment, saying the issue remains "in litigation."

On Tuesday, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez granted an injunction that prevents The Cosmopolitan from renting any of the 214 condos still under escrow until the potential owners have a chance to see those units, according to Lisa Lawrence, an attorney at Lurie & Park, a Los Angeles-based law firm representing about 150 condo buyers.

Sigal Chattah, a Las Vegas-based lawyer with the law offices of Sigal Chattah P.C., representing about 100 people who put down deposits on Cosmopolitan condos, said the buyers were not invited to the opening of the property, nor have they seen the condominiums.

The 214 condos still under contract are not included in the 2,000 units that opened Wednesday. Both sides will be back in court Dec. 28 to update the judge on the status of the arbitration process, Chattah said.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

 

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