U.S. Marshals have warned Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo that they’ll soon be selling his home in Coconut Grove over the $63.5 million judgment against him in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
On Friday afternoon, Marshal Gadyaces S. Serralta posted the following notice of levy outside Carollo’s property: “I have levied this day upon all right, title, and interest of said defendant, in and to the following described real estate, lying and being in Miami-Dade County.”
The notice was accompanied by two other court documents justifying the levy: a writ of execution on Carollo’s property signed early last month and a copy of the federal judgment against the commissioner for $63.5 million — which the sale of Carollo’s property would be used to satisfy.
Carollo’s attorney Marc Sarnoff told WLRN the property is protected under Florida’s Homestead Exemption and cannot be taken by the court.
“There are pending motions before the court, they need to rule on them. Many of them are over 120 days old. They would deal with these issues,” he added. “We invite the court to give Commissioner Carollo some due process.”
Back in June, Carollo was found liable for violating the First Amendment rights of Little Havana businessmen William Fuller and Martin Pinilla by using city power to harass their businesses. Fuller is co-owner of the Ball & Chain Bar on Calle Ocho.
The pair accused Carollo for years of repeatedly sending code enforcement, police and the city’s fire department to their properties to satisfy what they called a “vendetta” against them. Fuller and Pinilla had supported Carollo’s political opponent Alfie Leon in 2017, They argued Carollo was angry at them backing his rival, and when he took office, he took it out on their businesses.
After a lengthy jury trial, Carollo was ordered to pay a combined $63.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the men — though Carollo is still fighting that decision. Because the City of Miami is Carollo’s primary employer, the court ordered the city to withhold Carollo’s wages starting in November, also to pay off the judgment.
The city pays Carollo a salary of $58,200 a year, with benefits totaling approximately $105,000.
Carollo has filed arguments against the court withholding his wages and taking his property, though the court has not responded to those filings with an order. The commissioner argued last year that his wages could not be withheld because he is the head of his household and supports his wife, as well as a family of Venezuelan migrants.
When U.S. Marshals place a levy on an individual’s property, they look to auction it to the highest bidder. The proceeds from the auction will then go to pay off the person’s creditors, in this case Fuller and Pinilla. Carollo may challenge the levy before his home is sold at auction.
If Carollo is forced out of his home, it may have implications for his ability to hold office. Miami city commissioners are required to live in the district they represent.