Michael Diaz Jr. doesn’t get much sleep. As an asset hunter, Diaz has been concentrating on the types of cases that have been blaring through news networks nationwide: Ponzi schemes.
Through his firm Diaz, Reus & Targ, Diaz assists clients who are trying to recuperate their assets from the likes of Bernard Madoff, among countless others..
“We try to freeze the spoils of the assets acquired by the bad guys in order to give restitution to the victims,” explains Diaz. This is the business of international fraud and asset recovery. And Diaz is good at it. He was selected as a Florida Super Lawyer by Florida Trend Magazine for Global Affairs and has
been nominated for the Key Partner Award by the 2009 South Florida Business Journal.
His current focus defending those affected by Ponzi schemes has come about for a variety of reasons, he says. “Due to our proximity to Latin American and the Caribbean, we see more of these schemes,” says Diaz. “But the problem is not just endemic to Miami; the economy is trying to pull itself out from the
dredges, and when the tide goes out and everything is naked, you see the financial backing that’s all smoke and mirrors.”
One of the smoke and mirror cases Diaz has been working on is the case against Frederick C. Elliott and his son, Derek – who are alleged to have defrauded clients out of $170 million through a resort development plan in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The resort was never developed, and Diaz’s firm represents about 700 of the scammed investors.
But Diaz hasn’t always been on this side of the fence. He’s defended those who were allegedly involved in creating various Ponzi schemes in Argentina and Venezuela, along with other parts of Latin America. When you ask him which side he prefers to be on, he will tell you the work he is currently doing against the bad guys is more satisfying. It beckons him back, he says, to how he started out. Straight out of law school, he was a public prosecutor under Janet Reno, where he investigated and prosecuted major crime cases.
“I prosecuted a lot of murderers and drug dealers in the 80s. In the Julia Tuttle Causeway Murders – I sought and obtained a death sentence for those criminals,” he says proudly.
Today his firm has an international presence from Frankfurt to Venezuela and Miami to Shanghai. The firm, as an entity, boasts nine languages: English, Spanish, French, Czech, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, German, and Arabic. In addition, Diaz himself is a frequent lecturer, giving talks on consumer protection, forfeiture, and fraud. He recently conducted a lecture in Cuba – a big step for the Cubanborn Diaz, who had not been back since he left with his parents in the 1960s. The son of two immigrant parents – who, as Diaz says, “Did anything they could just to get by when they first got here” — he has come a long way.
Despite the long hours, the lack of sleep and the need to look straight into the often dark parts of our humanity, Diaz will look at you, whole-heartedly, and tell you: “I still love what I do.” And, how many people can say that?