Jerry Falwell Jr. settles Miami court case over South Beach ‘pool boy’ venture

Miami Herald/October 7, 2019

Jerry Falwell Jr. has settled the Miami court case that laid out many of the details behind the South Beach real estate venture his family launched in 2013 with a former Fontainebleau pool attendant the evangelical leader and his wife met while on vacation.

In a federal court filing, Falwell and the young lawyer who sued him, Gordon Bello, said they have settled the case for an undisclosed “monetary sum” that Falwell, the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, will pay Bello, a legislative aide for the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Bello sued in 2017, claiming he was promised a stake in the South Beach hostel that a Falwell family entity purchased in 2013 for $4.7 million. Bello, 28, claims he and his father, Miami builder Jett Bello, pitched Falwell on the hostel idea after being introduced by Giancarlo Granda, a high school friend of the younger Bello’s.

Granda had met Jerry and Rebecca Falwell while they were vacationing at the Fontainebleau and he was working as what the Bello lawsuit later described dismissively as a “pool boy.”

Granda befriended the Falwells, flew with them on corporate jets and, in 2012, traveled to Liberty to meet a famous keynote speaker there: future president Donald Trump.

Granda was granted a 25 percent share in the South Beach venture about a year later, and Bello’s suit claimed he was promised a similar share. He sued to be compensated on the alleged agreement, which he never documented in court papers and which Falwell denied ever existed.

Bello said in court papers that he first met Rebecca Falwell through Granda, and formed a “personal relationship” with her before he met Jerry Falwell in the lobby of the Loews Miami Beach for the alleged pitch meeting in 2012.

In court papers, Falwell denied promising Bello anything, and his lawyers noted the plaintiff never filed any emails, texts or documents suggesting a deal existed. The case became a side plot to the national saga of Falwell and his business venture with Granda, not to mention the other odd twists, such as an ex-Trump lawyer claiming he had once intervened to track down compromising photos of the Falwells.

There were unexplained developments in the Bello litigation, too. He was previously known as Jesus Fernandez Jr., and his father as Jesus Fernandez Sr. Both changed their names to Bello in the summer of 2016, saying they did so under pressure.

The younger Bello said in court papers the change was “due to a matter directly related to the subject matter of this lawsuit.” The elder Bello told the Miami Herald the change was due to “major concerns” and those concerns were “based on threats.”

In a statement Monday, Falwell lawyer Joshua Spector said the settlement still requires court action and declined to comment. “At this juncture, there remains judicial labor to be undertaken in the case and therefore I abide by my policy to refrain from discussing pending litigation,” said Spector, a Miami lawyer.

Bello declined to comment, and his lawyer, Michael Addicott, did not respond to a request for comment.

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