Judge Finds 457 Claims in Condo Collapse to Be Bogus

Most filings sought about $50K of the $1.1B fund
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 24, 2022 6:40 PM CDT
Judge Finds 457 Claims in Condo Collapse to Be Bogus
The damaged Champlain Towers South condo building collapses in a controlled demolition on July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Hundreds of bogus claims that sought a share of the $1.1 billion settlement in the deadly collapse of a Florida condominium building were ruled fraudulent and invalid by a judge Wednesday. More than 450 presumably false claims, most seeking about $50,000, were filed in the court settlement arising from the June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in which 98 people died, the AP reports. Those claims "have no connection whatsoever" to the tragedy and appear to be "claims seeking to wrongfully capitalize on this tragedy at the expense of the true victims," court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg said in court documents.

During a brief hearing Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said none of the bogus claimants showed up to provide evidence under oath, so their claims will be struck from the list of settlement beneficiaries. "They had to submit the necessary documentation, and they had to show up at the hearing," the judge said. The 457 false claims—out of 741 total—arrived mostly from Western states, especially California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, Goldberg said. They seem to be affiliated with a website that he said shows people how to file for damages in certain class-action settlements without providing proof.

The shaky claims from people insisting they were at the Surfside building and injured when it fell or owned units that suffered costly property losses were easily disproved with government records, first responder accounts, and court documents, Goldberg said. The apparent scammers could have been subjected to perjury charges, Goldberg added. The $1.1 billion settlement fund for families of the victims who died and those who lost their units and property was approved by the judge in June. The money comes from 37 sources, including insurance companies, engineering firms, and a luxury condominium building whose recent construction next door is suspected of contributing to structural damage of Champlain Towers South. None of the parties admits any wrongdoing.

(More Florida condo collapse stories.)

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