Lawsuit: Miami Billionaire Jeff Soffer Was Flying Chopper When It Crashed
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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Miami billionaire Jeff Soffer, owner of the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach, is being sued for $100 million dollars for allegedly crashing the helicopter that killed his best friend, Lance Valdez.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Miami’s Federal District Court, alleges Soffer, who does not have a helicopter pilot license, was flying the chopper when it crashed on Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas on Nov. 22, 2012.
Valdez, 48, was a tax lawyer and father-of-three. Valdez died immediately. Soffer was injured.
Valdez’s widow, Dasha, also claims in the suit that Soffer, conspired” to persuade her to accept $2 million in insurance money without telling her he had been at the controls, and to sign a release so he would escape greater damages.
Even though a pilot, David Pearce, was on board, the suit reads, “At the time of the crash, the helicopter was being piloted by Jeffrey Soffer. Soffer was not licensed to fly. [Nor was he a] sufficiently experienced helicopter pilot.”
Dasha filed the lawsuit against Soffer and his employees Daniel and Paula Riordan, who were also on board and escaped death. Also named is Soffer’s COO, Alex Krys.
The lawsuit alleges “that Soffer, with the Riordans, Krys and one or more others, conspired and agreed to conceal from [Dasha] the fact that Soffer, and not David Pearce, was flying the helicopter.
“The purpose of this was . . . to induce [Dasha] to accept $2 million in insurance proceeds . . . as full damages and recompense for the death of Lance. If it was discovered that Soffer was piloting the helicopter without a license, he could be personally liable and responsible . . . for the death of Lance Valdez.”
Soffer is the son of Aventura developer Don Soffer and is married to super model Elle Macpherson.
Soffer attorney Bob Martinez said in a statement to the Post, “Jeff Soffer is very sympathetic to Dasha and the children for their grave loss . . . Mr. Soffer denies all the allegations of wrongdoing . . . They are all without any merit. Mr. Soffer has no further comments to make at this time since the lawsuit is now pending in federal court, where he will be presenting his defense.”