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Jerry Falwell Jr. asks Miami judge to drop suit over alleged South Beach hostel deal

Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- The alleged partnership offer by Jerry Falwell Jr. that's at the heart of the evangelical leader's "pool boy" saga is based on flimsy evidence and a timeline of events that don't merit consideration by a Miami judge, Falwell said in court papers this week.

New filings in the breach-of-contract suit against the Liberty University president amplify past arguments by Falwell that his accuser, Miami-Dade commission aide Gordon Bello, is trying to wring money from the Liberty University president over brief discussions about a real estate venture with a future Falwell partner, Giancarlo Granda.

Granda is a former Fontainebleau pool attendant who met Falwell and his wife, Rebecca, during the couple's beach vacation in 2012 and went on to help oversee renovations of the South Beach hostel that a family entity purchased in 2013 for $4.7 million.

The 2017 litigation filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court used the term "pool boy" to describe Granda, a description that helped thrust details of the young man's personal and professional relationship with the Falwells into national attention. Granda flew on private jets with the Falwells, joined them on at least one trip to the Florida Keys and met Donald Trump with Falwell during the future president's 2012 trip to Liberty.

Granda is now 28 and pursuing a master's degree in real estate. City records show was he granted a 25% stake in the two-story Miami Hostel, a low-cost dormitory for tourists with a liquor store and restaurant on the ground floor off Alton Road. Tax and banking records given to Miami Beach showed Granda earning about $300 a week for his work, and the hostel losing money in 2015 and 2016.

The other primary partner in the venture was Trey Falwell, a Falwell son and a Liberty University executive. City records show both were involved in navigating Miami Beach's permitting process for renovations of the 1939 building.

 

Bello, a high school friend of Granda's who used to go by the name Jesus Fernandez Jr., claims he and his father, now named Jett Bello, pitched Falwell the idea of purchasing a South Beach hostel when he was scouting business opportunities for Granda in 2012. The Bellos first filed court papers against Falwell and Granda in 2015, with the father and son claiming they were left out of the promised hostel deal.

A judge has already dismissed fraud counts in the suit and dropped the elder Bello as a plaintiff. The younger Bello filed an amended complaint in July, and the Sept. 10 response from a Falwell lawyer is the argument for Judge Spencer Eig to dismiss the revised suit altogether.

A Bello lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. Gordon Bello, legislative director for Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, has declined interview requests on the litigation. Joshua Spector, Falwell's Miami lawyer, declined to comment, saying he doesn't speak publicly on active litigation.

While Falwell has acknowledged meeting with the Bellos in the lobby of the Loews hotel, his lawyers say the encounter did not involve a promise of a future stake in any sort of hostel venture.

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