Is Judge (and Former Sunrise Mayor) Steven Feren a Gambling Addict?

... and is that why he allegedly went out of his way to get special treatment to get his six-figure deposit back for his unit at the Tao condo and then begged for extra benefits from Sunrise?

Feren, the longtime Sunrise mayor turned Broward Circuit judge, has long been rumored to have a yen for the gaming tables and spend a lot of time at the track and is known to get out to Las Vegas at every chance (he was married there too). Now he's in the World Series of Poker (good on Nick Sortal for the scoop).

Looks like Feren's doing pretty well and might actually wind up in the money. I'll tell you someone who wouldn't mind seeing him lose: Oswaldo Mateus.

Mateus, like Feren, bought a condo at the Tao ghost towers in Sunrise that have reverted to the bank and have units that almost all stand empty and are worth less than half what most paid for them. Mateus asked for his deposit back but was refused. And when he heard that Feren, who was mayor at the time, got his deposit back while just about everyone else had to eat theirs, he wasn't happy with the obvious favoritism.

Mateus remembers a party for buyers and other guests back in October 2006 when the developer, Harry Weitzer, served everyone rack of lamb and sushi and toasted Tao. There, he says, was Mayor Feren, who made sure everyone knew he was the mayor and talked of how happy he was to be an owner himself.

"The mayor stood up and spoke and congratulated everyone for buying," Mateus told me. "He said, 'I'm one of the buyers, and this is a good project.' "

Mind you, Feren voted on the project in 2007 without disclosing a conflict.

Now Mateus is stuck while the mayor was allowed to get his money back. Buying at Tao, it seems, was a gamble for just about everybody but Feren. 

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman