Ron Kriss (J. Albert Diaz)
Ron Kriss, managing partner of the Miami office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, has been implicated in a lawsuit brought by a federal informant claiming Kriss’s son arranged to have him beaten up at a Brooklyn restaurant.
The elder Kriss is not a defendant in the case filed in New York Supreme Court by Salvatore Lauria, a former colleague of Kriss’s son, Jody, at Bayrock Group LLC, a New York real estate investment company.
The $5 million suit alleges Jody Kriss, former chief financial officer of Bayrock, adopted “mob tactics” to retrieve his cut of a commission on a development deal. Ron Kriss was the outside general counsel for Bayrock, according to the suit.
“I won’t dignify the things they said about me except to say they are preposterous and untrue,” Ron Kriss said in an email to the Daily Business Review.
Jody Kriss did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment by deadline.
Bayrock backed the Trump Soho in Manhattan as well as the unfinished 24-story Trump International Hotel & Tower in Fort Lauderdale. Ron Kriss represented Trump on the failed Fort Lauderdale project early on. A jury last week cleared Donald Trump of liability on investor claims of deceptive business practices in the development of the Fort Lauderdale resort.
Lauria, a convicted felon who acknowledged working as a federal informant, brokered an $85 million real estate deal with Iceland’s FL Group hf in 2007, earning a $2.5 million commission, according to the lawsuit.
But Jody Kriss maintained he deserved a piece of the commission and arranged for Lauria to be beaten up by a mobster, the complaint said. In July 2012, Lauria was at a business lunch when a mobster beat him up, saying, “You’re dead. I am going to kill and you. … You’re a rat. I did two years because of you.”
Lauria later sought FBI protection.
Jody Kriss, now a principal at East River Partners LLC in New York, also has been a federal informant, according to the suit.
The lawsuit states four causes of action—intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, prima facie tort and abuse of process.
The father and son “masterminded a plan to take over Bayrock” in the early 2000s, the lawsuit said. Kriss was a low-level analyst but was elevated to CFO after his father was retained as outside counsel. Ron Kriss was then a partner at Akerman, running the firm’s distressed property group in Miami.
“Together at the helm, Jody and Ronald Kriss paid themselves millions of dollars in commissions and legal fees for several years posing as the figureheads of Bayrock,” the suit stated.
They hid Lauria’s involvement with the company for fear it would hamper fundraising. Bayrock brought in investors and banks, lined up contractors and bought up land to develop major condominium and hotel projects in New York and Florida, getting big names like Trump aboard to lend cache to the projects.
In 2006, Jody and Ron Kriss traveled to Turkey aboard a private jet and “hobnobbed with Russian dignitaries and members of organized crime” to raise money for Bayrock, the lawsuit said.
Jody Kriss’s relationship with Bayrock and Lauria soured, and Kriss left the company. He later sued Bayrock and a host of other defendants and law firms, including Akerman, where his father worked for a decade. Six months after the suit was filed in May 2010, Ron Kriss left Akerman to head Stroock & Stroock & Lavan’s Miami office. He still holds that position.
The lawsuit against Akerman is still pending in the Southern District of New York.
Kriss also sued Lauria at least three times.
Lauria’s suit accused Kriss of being a serial plaintiff in lawsuits against dozens of law firms—including Nixon Peabody, Duval Stachenfeld, Robert & Holland and Morgan Lewis & Bockius—that were baseless but intended to extort settlement money.
“For Kriss, filing lawsuits is just an endless game, like putting quarter after quarter in a slot machine in Las Vegas, hoping to hit the jackpot and strike it rich,” the lawsuit states. “Kriss has become a professional plaintiff abusing the judicial system, while simultaneously endangering the lives of former federal cooperators … by funneling sensitive, judicially sealed documents and information to the press and others.”
The latest lawsuit said Jody Kriss has been careful not to sue his father’s current law firm or its clients. He dropped Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, as defendants in a lawsuit when he discovered they were his father’s clients.
Lauria is represented by Nader Mobargha and Michael Beys of Beys Stein Mobargha & Berland in New York.
New York-based Stroock & Stroock & Lavan has 300 lawyers and offices in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington. The Miami office has 16 lawyers.