A critical allegation in the Miccosukees' federal court lawsuit against its former attorneys at Lewis Tein is that the Miami firm fleeced the tribe through a secret scheme of "fictitious loans."
But in an eight-page motion for sanctions filed late last month, Lewis Tein produced documentation showing the use of loans to pay attorneys by the tribe was routine.
Tribe members with legal problems would then repay the loan for an attorney's services through a stipend each Miccosukee receives from the tribe's gambling profits.
Among those on the list of lawyers or law firms whose fees were paid through the loan arrangement: Bernardo Roman III, the current counsel for the Miccosukee tribe.
Roman is the author of the lawsuit filed last year against Lewis Tein, former Miccosukee chairman Billy Cypress and attorney Dexter Lehtinen, a partner at Tew Cardenas who also formerly represented the tribe.
Roman "repeatedly disputed the tribe lent money to tribe members to pay legal fees," said attorney Paul Calli, partner at Carlton Fields who represents Lewis Tein in the June 21 motion for sanctions.
The tribe's lawsuit claims Lewis Tein was created in March 2005 "for the main purpose of advancing and perfecting the plundering of the Miccosukee tribe."
The tribe's auditor, though, produced an accounts receivable list from a time prior to the formation of Lewis Tein listing a number of payments to attorneys and law firms that the defendants say constitute the loan-fee arrangement.
Among those attorneys on a ledger filed by Lewis Tein with the court was appellate specialist Bruce S. Rogow and Holland & Knight.
Rogow was paid $709,000 for his work representing Kirk Billie, who was sentenced to life in prison for the drowning deaths of his young sons.
"The retainer was with Kirk, and my understanding was that the monies came from the dividends accrued and which would accrue in the future to him," Rogow said in an e-mail exchange. "I cannot speak for anyone else's arrangements."
Roman did not respond to phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.
He also cooperated with a plaintiff attorney's action against Guy Lewis and Michael Tein in a civil wrongful death case in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The lawyers were accused of disguising the source of their fees in representing father-and-daughter Miccosukee tribal members Tammy Billie and Jimmy Bert. Billie had been convicted for DUI manslaughter in the death of Liliana Bermudez in 2000 and her father was being sued as the owner of the car.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick found no legitimacy to the highly litigated claim to shift liability to Lewis Tein for the $3.2 million jury verdict against their clients.
Lewis Tein said a loan fee arrangement had been made in which their clients paid back the tribe for footing their legal bills from the stipend each member receives from gambling operations.
Roman had handed over checks to the plaintiffs' attorneys purportedly proving that Lewis Tein's fees came directly from the tribe. The strategy backfired.
Dresnick decided last month, using the checks as evidence, that the tribe must pay the judgment to the plaintiffs.
Another exhibit in the June 21 motion for sanctions is a series of documents showing how the money paid for Billie and Bert's representations were loans.
Roman, in a Dec. 20 affidavit to Dresnick, denied such documents existed showing advances made to the Miccosukee Tribe to Bert or Billie.
But financial documents were obtained from the tribe's former accountant, Jodi Goldenberg, who rebutted this position. Other documents, such as the ledger of payments to attorneys, were obtained from the tribe's auditor and tribe's file clerk.
Goldenberg testified in February that loans were extended to Billie's family for payment of Lewis Tein. Goldenberg was fired three days before her deposition.
She said her dismissal was due that she refused testify as Roman wanted her to that the loans were not approved.
In another motion in the state court malpractice case filed on Tuesday, Lewis Tein accused attorneys involved in the wrongful death civil case of a perjury.
The motion, which consists of a PowerPoint presentation asks, Circuit Judge John Thornton to deny the tribe the opportunity to amend the state malpractice lawsuit.
The pleading consists almost entirely of a printed out PowerPoint presentation, including a slide of an invoice for Jimmie Bert's legal fees that denotes it is a loan.
"In the Bermudez case before Judge Dresnick, lawyers for the opposing sides cooperated to make false accusations against Guy Lewis and Michael Tein of perjury and fraud on the court," the motion reads.
E-mails and phone calls e-mail to attorneys Ramon Rodriguez and Jose "Pepe" Herrera, who represented the Bermudez family and Bert respectively, for comment were not returned.
But it's Roman who is the focus of the pleading.
"Bernardo Roman knew all along that his client, the tribe, routinely lent money to its members for legal fees, for over a decade, contrary to his accusations against Lewis Tein," the pleading stated.