Millions In Drug Money Has Made Its Way Into The South Florida Commercial Real Estate Market

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Jun 14, 2024 - 11:45 AM

A new report is revealing how illegal drug funds have made their way through the commercial real estate market in South Florida "and beyond", according to Bisnow

Among examples was Miami's Sefira Capital, who agreed to forfeit over $29M in 2021 to settle a DEA investigation into money laundering, though it admitted no wrongdoing. 

The firm was accused of ignoring red flags about investor funds and was implicated in a DEA sting operation, revealing millions in drug money flowed through its investment fund, Bisnow reports.

The probe included a $63M hotel acquisition near Washington, D.C., and an office building in Fort Lauderdale used by Broward County prosecutors. 

This case is among five highlighted in a report on money laundering risks in commercial real estate by Global Financial Integrity and others, noting $2.6B laundered across 22 states, with California, Florida, and New York being the top destinations.

The DOJ alleged that between 2016 and 2019, Sefira Capital raised millions in criminal proceeds without sufficient due diligence, ignoring red flags like discrepancies in sender names and investment amounts. 

The firm received funds from criminals using The Black Market Peso Exchange, which allowed drug traffickers to swap U.S. dollars for local currencies. 

As part of the DEA investigation, dollars were bought on the black market and transferred to Sefira's U.S. accounts under the guidance of money laundering brokers.

Sefira Capital, founded by Aby Galsky and Mijael Attias in late 2015, purchased at least seven properties in Florida and three in South Florida from 2015 to 2021, allegedly using laundered money. In a statement to Bisnow, Sefira claimed no knowledge or intent regarding the funds' origins, stating they were passive recipients.

Sefira's joint venture with Highline Real Estate Capital included buying and later selling the Courthouse Place office near the Broward County courthouse. Highline’s founder, David Moret, stated the DEA did not investigate their joint venture properties.

Sefira’s acquisitions also included The Jaxon Apartments in Jacksonville, a Tampa office building, and a self-storage facility in Naples. A significant purchase was the Westin Tysons Corner, acquired with Driftwood Capital and Merrimac Ventures for $62M in 2018. Driftwood stated that Sefira was a passive limited partner.

In 2021, Sefira settled with the DOJ, agreeing to forfeit $22.5M in assets and pay $6.5M to avoid foreclosure. Galsky and Attias have since parted ways with Sefira and started new firms. Sefira's website remains active, listing several properties, but the company lacks social media presence and is not mentioned in the founders’ LinkedIn profiles.