Paul DioGuardi, tax lawyer and accomplished teller of tales, shares adventures of a life which proves that tax, contrary to the popular misconception, is anything but dull. His anecdotes are intermingled with insights and advice on tax issues of relevance to all taxpayers.
Sosua by the Sea was successful from the day it opened. There were few hotels in the area, and little competition then. It was the lull before the tempest.
Nathan called me out of the blue one day. He was calm; Nathan was always calm. But I sensed a slight edge in his voice.
“We’ve got trouble, Paul,” he said. “Those Americans have taken possession of the hotel.”
Some months before, Tony had been approached by a group of Americans who offered to buy the hotel at an attractive cash price. We conferred, and instructed Tony to accept the deal. The paperwork was signed, but the money never materialized. As far as we were concerned, the deal was dead.
“They don’t have title,” I responded. “They have no right to the property.”
“It’s an extortion ring,” Nathan said, still remarkably calm. “They’re saying they paid Tony the money, and he’s stolen it. When Tony told them there was no deal, they pulled out guns and told him they were staying.”
“Is Tony still at the hotel?” I asked.
“No, they forced him out at gunpoint,” Nathan said. “I told him to stay out and stay safe until we find an answer. It’s not worth a man’s life.”
I agreed, but now Nathan and I had to figure out what to do.
Nathan suggested we try Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. (We’re Canadian. We always try to solve things through government.) Nathan made the call. Foreign Affairs suggested helpfully that we speak to the Canadian representative in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
Nathan and I determined to go down to the Dominican. I don’t think our wives were very happy at the thought of us flying into danger. Or maybe they just wanted in on the adventure. In any case, they both elected to come with us. We had to get our hotel back.
Once on the island, we drove to Santo Domingo to meet the Canadian bureaucrat. He was very nice to us, and truly wanted to help. Alas, it quickly became obvious that this man had no power to assist us.
We were living something out of a bad Hollywood movie. Our hotel had been seized by gangsters, who were now running it for their own benefit. They had managed to convince the Dominican authorities that they had paid Tony cash for the property, and that Nathan and Tony had absconded to Florida with the money. According to them, the hotel belonged to them and they weren’t leaving.
This would have been a good time for my Provo friend Big Charley and his gun (see “Shootout at the Provo Corral”).
Nathan and I weren’t gun fighters. We both trusted the rule of law. And so we sought out a prominent Dominican lawyer, thinking we could start a lawsuit to oust the gangsters and recover our hotel.
The lawyer looked at us for a few moments before he spoke.
“I recommend you find $10,000 and give it to me to bribe the judge,” he said.
Under my breath I muttered to Nathan “Run, don’t walk, to the nearest door.”
Needless to say, we didn’t retain that lawyer. Instead, Nathan spoke to his contacts on the island, and we were referred to other counsel, who agreed to file a lawsuit on our behalf.
The gangster’s lawyer filed a bogus defence to our suit. He alleged that that there had been an agreement of purchase and sale between Tony and his client, and that millions in cash had indeed been paid. We could prove the gangsters never paid us the sale price. Litigation, however, takes time, and if the right palms were greased along the way, the court could too easily be convinced to rule in the gangsters’ favour. We were at, as they used to say in the old Western movies, a Mexican standoff.
True to form, Nathan had an ace up his sleeve.
“We must get back to Sosua,” he said. “I understand the synagogue roof is badly in need of renovation. Bring your wallet.”
I had no idea what the synagogue’s roof had to do with our hotel. Nevertheless, I drove back to Sosua with Nathan and off we went to the synagogue. Apparently Nathan was planning a petition to a force even mightier than prayer.
He introduced me to the Chairwoman of the synagogue restoration fund. I didn’t need his elbow in my side to prompt me to offer to make a large donation.
As I was emptying my wallet, Nathan whispered in my ear, “Her husband is the American Consul here. He’s in thick with the President of Dominican. I’m hoping he can influence the right people for us.”
It hit me like a bolt of lightning. Of course. The Canadian government was powerless here. But the Americans! The Yankee dollar gave them a lot of clout in the Dominican. Perhaps they really could help us out.
After I made my very generous contributions to the building fund, Nathan and I shared our tale with the Consul’s wife.
She was most sympathetic. “Certainly you must speak to my husband,” she said. “Come to the Skyhorse Ranch Sunday at 10 AM. He’ll be free then.”
Skyhorse Ranch was the official residence of the American Consul.
Bright and early Sunday morning Nathan and I arrived at Skyhorse Ranch. We had coffee and conversation with the American Consul. As the senior American diplomat on the island, he had a direct line to the island’s President. It was our best chance and, at that point, our only chance to get our hotel back.
We told him how American gangsters had defaulted on their offer to purchase, and then seized our hotel at gunpoint, alleging that they had paid us in cash. We gave him their names and descriptions so he could check them out. He agreed that it was likely these men were criminals, and undertook to see what he could do.
God and the Americans work in mysterious ways. We heard nothing more from the American consul. Then one day the Dominican police swooped in on the hotel and arrested the gangsters, who were deported – or maybe even extradited – to the United States. What happened thereafter we were never told. In any event, we were more interested in restoring Tony to run Sousa by the Sea.
Tony did return to the hotel, and managed it well for our little group of investors. Several years, and many adventures later, a Canadian conglomerate offered to buy our hotel at an attractive price. Their offer was accepted, and this time the money materialized and the deal was properly closed.
Thus my Dominican chronicles came to an end.