Ana Lazara Rodriguez had already made contingency plans if the legal fight she has been waging to stay in her Miami home after getting evicted in February didn’t go her way.
“The owner of Versailles told me he would allow me to sleep in my Honda in the restaurant’s parking lot, because it has security,” said Rodriguez, 83. “That was my plan. Thank God it didn’t happen.”
The trouble for Rodriguez, Cuba’s longest-held woman prisoner, began in 2018, when Bank of New York Mellon foreclosed on the modest three-bedroom home near Southwest Eighth Street and Le Jeune Road where she had lived for nearly 14 years.
Vanessa Veytia, a California resident who bought the home out of foreclosure for $415,000 in August 2020, filed to evict Rodriguez in February.
Last week, Bruce Jacobs, one of three attorneys representing Rodriguez pro bono, filed a last-ditch emergency stay on Rodriguez’s pending eviction with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal on Sept. 20. But the court denied the stay on Sept. 21.
Then an anonymous benefactor from Miami’s Cuban community stepped up to buy Rodriguez a four-bedroom, two-bath home near Coral Way and Southwest 67th Avenue in the Coral Terrace neighborhood.
The $690,000 transaction closed on Sept. 24. Rodriguez, who survived multiple horrors during her 19 years in Fidel Castro’s prisons, moved into the new home this past weekend.
“My relief was indescribable — such a great peace of mind,” Rodriguez said. “The woman who lives across the street came to tell me that her husband would take out my trash bins to the sidewalk. This morning, she brought me a loaf of Cuban bread. The neighborhood is amazing, full of sweet, caring people.”
A legal battle
The months-long legal saga of Rodriguez’s eviction drew the attention of politicians and housing advocates, and culminated with a Writ of Possession posted on her door on Sept. 11, giving her 48 hours to vacate the premises.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava intervened, ordering the Miami Dade Police Department not to carry out the writ in order to give Rodriguez more time to exhaust her legal options.
Court records show the anonymous benefactor had originally offered to buy the home from Veytia for $576,900 on Sept. 13, which would have netted the new owner a profit of $161,900 and kept Rodriguez in the contested home.
But the deal soured when Veytia demanded a quit claim deed within 24 hours on Sept. 14, according to emails from the attorneys representing both parties.
Quit claim deeds are normally used to transfer property to a family member, an LLC or a trust. But a quit claim deed does not guarantee that the property has no liens or encumbrances, and offers the buyer no legal protection in case there are unexpected problems with the title of the property.
The fight continues
The failed deal would have also required Jacobs, who has argued from the start of the case that the eviction is illegal because Bank of New York Mellon committed fraud by using a robo-signed mortgage assignment and forged rubber-stamped endorsements, to drop his charges against the bank.
Now that Rodriguez is out of the house, Jacobs and his co-counsel David Winker and Roy Wasson intend to continue the fight.
“Moving Ana out of her house into this beautiful dream home is also removing the only leverage that the banks and Ms. Veytia had, which was the threat of eviction,” Jacobs said. “We don’t get the house but we can sue. Vanessa Veytia is the sister of Edgar Veytia, a former high-ranking law enforcement officer in Mexico who is serving 20 years in federal prison for working with the Mexican drug cartel.
“We are calling for an investigation into what may be drug cartel profits laundered through the sale of fraudulent foreclosures by Bank of America and Bank of New York Mellon,” Jacobs said. “We’re going to be suing for Ana under the RICO act, which is criminal racketeering. A fraudulent foreclosure is not due process. This fight isn’t over.”
Rodriguez, who is still settling into her new home, said her favorite spot in the new house thus far is her bedroom.
“I usually go to bed around 12:30 a.m.,” she said. “But I’ve been working so much since the moving started on Friday, I’ve been passing out around 9:30 p.m. And it’s really easy to sleep now.”