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Written by Francisco Alvarado, BT Contributor   
May 2019

Miami Shores says good riddance to a dangerous neighbor

MMotel_1iami Shores homeowners won’t have to worry about running into escapees of the Shores at Biscayne Motel anymore. In late March, a demolition crew hired by the property’s out-of-state owner tore down the two one-story buildings that had served as a crime hub for nearly a quarter century.

In recent years, the motel has been the scene of two rapes, a cold-blooded murder, and multiple shootings. It also had a reputation as a prostitution den and welcomed a pimp who forced a 13-year-old girl to perform sex acts for money and tattooed his name on her eyelids.

“It’s a relief that the motel is finally gone and all that crime is not over there anymore,” says Janet Goodman, a Biscayne Times contributor whose home is adjacent to the motel property. “I lived with it for almost 20 years. I had a lot of incidents from people at the motel. I’m glad the bad guys left.”

In 2006 and again in 2015, individuals staying at the motel scaled the high concrete wall between the property and Goodman’s in attempts to evade police. One of them, a man named Quincy Watkins, had shot another man five times at the motel in an argument over a woman. He is currently serving a life sentence for attempted murder.

Motel_2So when the company Thunder Demolition reduced the motel to rubble in late March, it finally closed the chapter on one of the ugliest sagas in Miami Shores history, Goodman says. And in early April, shortly before the village election, her neighbors held a celebration, she added.

“My neighbor hosted a block party, the first one I can recall since I moved in,” she adds. “A lot of people turned out, including some of the candidates. This motel has been a thorn in our side for a long time.”

Throughout its existence, the motel, which is located at 10500 Biscayne Blvd., has had several owners, who would initially clean up the property but then neglect it and allow criminals to return, Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad tells the BT. “It would get better and then go back to the way it was,” he says. “Crime would spike up and then go calm when we spoke to management.”

Lystad explains that Miami Shores officials decided that enough was enough when a police officer from Golden Beach was shot while assisting the village’s small police force track down a wanted man, who held up a neighbor at gunpoint and then hid in an unoccupied house near the motel.

“We would move on the people staying in the motel and they’d come back again,” Lystad says. “We took a new direction and focused on the motel owner and management.”

On one front, the Miami Shores Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began a year-long criminal probe to build strong cases against individuals who were using the motel as a base of operations. Meanwhile, the village’s code enforcement office filed multiple liens between 2016 and 2018 against ICUC Holdings, the Santa Ana, California, company that owns the property, for failing to address a number of permitting and code violations. According to village records, ICUC currently owes Miami Shores $868,640 in fines.

On May 3, 2018, Han Tran, ICUC’s president, appeared before the village code enforcement board and told Miami Shores officials that he wanted to demolish the motel and build a new one in its place. However, the board denied Tran’s request to settle the fines for just $5000. Tran did not return multiple messages requesting comment left on his cell phone.

In October of last year, the police department and ATF arrested 16 people residing at the motel on a number of state and federal charges. The village forced the motel to close for good until Tran presented a plan to the Miami Shores building department to bring the property back up to code.

“During the investigation, Miami Shores police were doing surveillance from behind the wall on my property,” Goodman recalls. “I had ATF agents interviewing me about the motel.”

Goodman’s neighbor who threw the block party explains that it took a coordinated effort between village permitting and code enforcement personnel, the police department, and ATF to bring the Shores motel under control. “The village has done an outstanding job,” he says. “They haven’t let up.”

The neighbor, who requested anonymity because he’s assisting the police department in ongoing investigations, adds that residents remain concerned because Tran still owns the property and former denizens of the motel are popping up at the Hacienda Motel at 9101 Biscayne Blvd. and at homes being used for short-term vacation rentals.

“The owner has a terrible track record,” Goodman’s neighbor says. “He left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. And the crime element is still in the surrounding areas.”

According to meeting minutes for the last two code enforcement board meetings, staff have been unable to contact Tran. Meanwhile, the liens are still pending. Ronny Herrera, Thunder Demolition’s president, tells the BT that Tran is a hard man to reach. “He does it on purpose,” he says. “He contacts you when he wants to. Right now, we’re trying to close out the permit, but he doesn’t want to remove the fence he had to put up for the demolition.” (The fence has since come down and most of the property has been sodded.)

Alice Burch, who was recently elected to her second term on the village council, says that Miami Shores authorities don’t know what Tran plans to do with the property. “Communication has been difficult and we haven’t had that discussion,” Burch says. “Other than issuing fines and trying to collect the fines, we have no authority over the property. Any discussion of what should be built on the property is premature at this point.”

Goodman fears Tran will try to build another motel. “Right now it’s in limbo and we don’t know what the next step will be,” she says. “If the same company is allowed to build something else, that worries me. Its owner didn’t mind at all that there was illegal activity at the motel.”

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