Bust Me if You Can

If it looks like a lawyer and quacks like a lawyer, is it really a lawyer?

But multiple people, including state prosecutors, say that, technicalities aside, Brady represented himself as a lawyer and that his betrayal cost friends and clients thousands if not millions of dollars. And not least of all, in the behind-the-scenes confines of the South Florida power structure, it left them with a fair amount of egg on the face.

In police reports, one alleged victim, a businessman named Brent Fardette, claims that Brady introduced himself as an attorney when the two met at a political fundraiser in 2004. Shortly thereafter, the pair began planning a business deal. Brady told Fardette he knew of a shopping plaza for sale in Pompano Beach. If Fardette bought it — for $19.5 million — they could flip it and resell at a steep profit. In fact, Brady advised, he already had buyers in mind. They were people he knew through his stepdad's law firm: major condo developer Jean Francois Roy of Ocean Land Investments (famous for an unsuccessful bid to buy the town of Briny Breezes in 2006 for $510 million) and State Senator Steven Geller.

In June of 2005, Brady presented Fardette with documents to back up the deal: a contract supposedly signed by the seller and a letter of intent to buy, supposedly signed by buyers Geller and Roy. Fardette gave Brady a $100,000 deposit.

Brady smiles for the mugshot camera.
Brady smiles for the mugshot camera.

Meanwhile, Fardette's friend Frank DiMaria — the owner of Frank's Restaurant in Pompano Beach — came calling to see if Brady could help him too. DiMaria hoped to open a juice bar on Pompano Beach, but first he needed to obtain a variance from the City Commission. Between October 2004 and April 2005, police reports say, DiMaria gave Brady $25,000 in retainer fees.

Cash was rolling in. At the end of the summer, Brady apparently thought about rewarding himself. He showed up on the tony Isle of Venice in downtown Fort Lauderdale to look at a three-story waterfront townhouse for sale.

Pleased with the property, Brady agreed on the $1.5 million purchase price and produced a check for $199,000 as a deposit. The check was drawn on the SunTrust bank account of his stepfather's law practice. With it, a police report says, Brady presented a letter purportedly signed by his stepfather's law partner, Donald Corbin, assuring that funds were available in escrow to cover the check.

A witness says that Brady wore a suit and spoke with confidence that August day: "His whole demeanor was like a cocky young gun." According to the witness, he remarked that the attached boat slip would make a perfect home for his yacht.

Prosecutors would later say, forget Harvard Law School — Chas Brady never even graduated from college.

He did, however, attend Fort Lauderdale High, an academically rigorous public school in an urban neighborhood. A former classmate named Sara remembers Brady. He was one of "the waspy kids that came from money (or faked it)," she says.

Another alumna, Jessica, knew Brady from ROTC. "Only his close friends called him 'Chas,'" she says. "Most of us weren't in that category, usually by choice, so we called him 'Cheese.'"

Brady wasn't a horrible person, Jessica says, but he came off as arrogant, and maybe a bit of a fibber. "He liked to brag about things that just seemed so unrealistic for a 15-year-old."

Post high school, while his peers were off attending football games and pledging fraternities, Chas Brady was contending with his own youthful troubles near home. Over the course of three years, cops busted him for speeding, detained him for trespassing, and arrested him for driving with a suspended license. In other areas of his life, though, he appeared to be hardworking and ambitious beyond his years. He busied himself with grown-up pursuits that might put lesser intellects to sleep. He learned about zoning laws. He joined city advisory boards. He started lobbying.

Sometime around 2002, when Brady would have been 21, he lobbied on behalf of the City of Wilton Manors, eventually helping secure $1 million in grant money for a historical park. Mayor Scott Newton remembers hiring Eddy's firm but doesn't remember whether Brady specifically claimed to be a lawyer. "We didn't have much good or bad to say about him," Newton says. "The stepfather's firm did what we asked of him."

That same year, the youthful Brady announced that he was going to run for the District 1 seat (representing northeast Fort Lauderdale) on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission — a position that was eventually won by Christine Teel.

Teel only remembers seeing Brady once during the lead-up to the election. "He was well-spoken and nice looking. Tall, neat, and clean."

A Sun-Sentinel article from this period quotes Chas Brady as saying, "People would say, 'Oh, you're just young. You don't know what's going on.' But I would say I have two bachelor's degrees and I'm a lobbyist. I think I know a little."

It was a rare instance of Brady stepping into the spotlight — his modus operandi was usually to keep to the sidelines — and he apparently quickly reconsidered. The bold claim about his academic bona fides was published without challenge in the press, but there was barely any mention of him in subsequent news clips about the race. Teel believes Brady never filed the paperwork to complete his run. As something of a consolation prize, Teel says, her predecessor Gloria Katz appointed Brady to the Community Services Advisory Board. "He eventually ended up being chair of that," Teel says. "But I had to ask him to resign." Teel could not remember precisely why, just "something to do with him misrepresenting himself." (Brady's resignation letter, on file with the city, states that he left because "personal activities are becoming a burden on my time and commitment to the city.")

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