Mega-developer Glenn Straub is a proud, hard-nosed businessman with a reputation as a litigious bulldog quick to pounce with lawsuits over broken deals and delinquent debts.
But two former girlfriends say he’s dragging them into court over a more personal breach — a broken heart.
Former Wellington, Florida, resident Jessica Nicodemo, 34, and Lacy K. Bridges, 24, of Charleston, South Carolina, accuse Straub, 72, of filing frivolous lawsuits against them as revenge for breaking off romantic relationships with him, court documents show.
Nicodemo’s accusations are also part of a criminal investigation into whether Straub, spurned by her efforts to break up with him, physically threatened her and directed Palm Beach Polo to file fraudulent liens against properties she owned in Loxahatchee Groves and Wellington.
Gov. Rick Scott transferred the criminal case to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office last year because Nicodemo and Straub are friends with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his ex-wife, Lynn Aronberg, both of whom are witnesses in the civil case.
Nicodemo, whose civil counterclaim includes copies of revealing text messages, said she and Bridges are not the only women Straub has dated and then targeted with lawsuits.
Three other younger women, including a former Mrs. Florida, have been sued by Straub companies since 2013 over alleged debts or eviction from his yacht. In those cases, the women did not raise a spurned-lover defense.
Straub, the former owner of Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City and the current owner of Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Florida, said he dated the women and had intimate relationships with some of them, according to a deposition. But he said his company, Palm Beach Polo Inc., sued because they failed to either repay loans, pay for work done by Palm Beach Polo or return company-owned jewelry, clothes and credit cards.
“I’m not a romanticist. I’m a business person. You do something, I charge you for it. You do not pay your bills, I send you a bill and my people know how to put liens on things because we do it all the time,” said Straub, who has been divorced since 2007 and has two adult daughters.
“This ‘me too’ thing, that’s pretty much what this case is around, and it’s not right,” he said, referring to the #MeToo movement of accusations of unwanted sexual contact against powerful men over the past two years.
But Nicodemo and Bridges are not accusing him of unwanted sexual contact. They’re accusing him of retaliation.
“He will loan money to vulnerable women. And if they cross him, if they won’t date him or won’t have sex with him, if they break up with him, that’s when he takes legal action,” said Palm Beach Gardens attorney Elizabeth Parker, who represents Nicodemo. “It’s stalking through the courts.”
Straub once called himself ‘a dictator’
No stranger to controversy, Straub is one of the most successful real estate developers in Palm Beach County, a builder, investor and a lender with a talent for mining gold from distressed properties and a penchant for butting heads with opponents big and small.
“We turn around sick companies, like a doctor does for a patient,” said Straub, a West Virginia native who built his fortune from asphalt and concrete companies he acquired in the Ohio Valley steel region after inheriting, at the age of 17, his late father’s transportation businesses.
Today, Palm Beach Polo is a world-class community that has attracted visits from the British royal family and boasts celebrity homeowners such as Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.
“I’m a hands-on operations person who kind of gives inspiration to the company,” said Straub, who once owned the now-demolished Miami Arena and recently made millions flipping Revel, now called Ocean Resort Casino, in Atlantic City. Straub bought the property for $82 million in 2015 after it cost $2.4 billion to build, and sold it to Bruce Deifik for $200 million in January.
Along the way, he has forged connections to powerful people, including Aronberg, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath and President Donald Trump.
But he can be pugnacious and polarizing, too.
“I’m a dictator,” he said at a property owners association meeting 20 years ago after a homeowner questioned his development plans.
One day last summer, he caused a stir when he arrived at Palm Beach Polo’s gated entrance.
“Straub refused to show his ID and drove his brown Bentley convertible coupe through the gate, causing the gate arm to fall off,” a deputy said in a July Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office report, which noted “this is not the first incident they had with Straub.”
He reminisces about alleged scrapes with the Ohio Mafia in the 1970s, and he once described going to court against the government as “a little hobby of mine.”
Nothing is off limits when Straub picks a court fight, whether it’s against equestrian developer Mark Bellissimo for failing to provide Straub with the best tables at horse events, the village of Wellington for flooding his land, or the New Jersey gaming commission over a casino license.
“I will not run from anybody,” he replied when asked in a deposition this summer about his penchant for litigation. “Do I enjoy it? I just won’t run from it. I’m not going to give in.”
Although he and his companies own luxury cars, a 160-foot yacht and property around the world, he said he loves to fly the no-frill Spirit Airlines — and not just because of its nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale to Atlantic City.
“I can save a lot,” he said in a deposition. “That’s how stingy I am.”
As for his social life, Straub, who plays polo and tennis, said he goes out almost every night because he doesn’t like to cook.
“I’ve dated in 10 years over 15 young ladies,” Straub said in a deposition, adding he often offers life advice to his friends’ adult children.
“I probably see myself as a senior trying to help the juniors around to get up through life and do certain things,” he said, “but when they are contaminated with drinking, it’s a lot harder.”
Straub says he has remained friendly with many of the women he has dated.
Chance meeting on a flight
Nicodemo said she met Straub more than 10 years ago when she started dating Kevin Swerdlin, the son of prominent Wellington veterinarian Scott Swerdlin.
When she married Kevin Swerdlin in 2011, Straub, a longtime friend of Scott Swerdlin, attended the wedding. She said she often took trips to the Florida Keys with the Swerdlin family on Straub’s yacht.
After her marriage fell apart, she said she ran into Straub on a flight from New York in 2015. She said she was an emotional wreck at the time because of her divorce and Straub lent her a sympathetic ear.
Straub said she mentioned financial difficulties from her divorce. They started talking to each other regularly and eventually started seeing each other.
“He was there for me during a time that I would consider the lowest in my life,” Nicodemo wrote on her Facebook page in August.
She said Straub took her to Atlantic City and to a seaside resort in the Dominican Republic. She also said she dined with Straub and then-candidate Trump at least twice at Mar-a-Lago.
She said she loved Straub and claimed they talked about marriage, which Straub denies.
They had gotten so close, she said, that Straub offered to do free work on her properties. Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15, 2016, Palm Beach Polo performed $77,000 in construction and yard work at her Loxahatchee Groves house and remodeling, landscaping and pool and patio repair at her Wellington townhouse, according to the company’s lawsuit.
At no time did Straub ever ask for money for the work, which he “gratuitously offered” because they were dating, she said in court records.
By late 2016, Nicodemo said she was trying to spend less time with Straub so she could focus on her professional life. She owns Pet Dental Services in Lake Worth.
Straub got jealous, she said, and the relationship soured.
When she tried to break up, she said Straub threatened to harm her physically and financially by placing liens on her property. She said she was too afraid at the time to report her allegations to law enforcement.
In January 2017, Palm Beach Polo filed liens against her properties. The company sued her two months later. The lawsuit included copies of work invoices from November 2016 that Nicodemo said she’d never seen before.
Straub denied threatening Nicodemo and said he expects to be vindicated.
On Aug. 3, Nicodemo filed a counterclaim accusing Straub and Palm Beach Polo treasurer Sal Spano of conspiring to file false liens to prevent her from selling her properties and “moving away” after she “made attempts to end the personal relationship and Straub’s advances.”
The counterclaim includes copies of nearly 50 text messages allegedly sent by Straub to Nicodemo between January and April 2017. Among them:
“The first day you don’t check in is the first day I put a leon (lien) on your house. Then try to sell it.”
“Can’t understand why you would want to test me. When only a call would have saved you from a boatload of trouble. I have no guilt now you deserve everything you get. Wrong move but you’re Italian and deserve what you get. One chance. Call.”
“You know me that I have to win to teach people and I cant Waite (sic) so let talk on how I can bend without both us killing each other. Please.”
Referring to her allegations, Straub said in a deposition, “This is an old man being semi-hustled by a much younger girl, and I think the world knows what that means.”
Nicodemo told The Post: “Glenn Straub is a billionaire who buys and sells companies, holds himself out to be a cut-throat businessman, and he is letting a girl that he dates hustle him? Does that even make sense?”
Tried to ‘woo her with gift’
On April 10, 13 months after suing Nicodemo, Palm Beach Polo sued Bridges, a South Carolina woman who had spent time in South Florida.
Straub said he met Bridges at a Palm Beach sushi bar early this year. “She’s pretty young. I didn’t date her that long, that’s for sure,” he told The Post.
Polo’s lawsuit accuses Bridges of taking $7,000 worth of jewelry and clothes owned by the company and of using a company credit card without permission.
Bridges denied the charges. In court documents in August, her attorney said she was “briefly involved in a romantic relationship” this year with Straub, who “being significantly older than Bridges” attempted “to woo her with gifts” and then “vindictively” filed the false claims after she broke up with him.
Straub said in a deposition that he took Bridges shopping in Miami Beach for clothes that were to be kept on his yacht. The clothes, he said, were “for events we have for a lot of people because she’s about the same size as all those girls.”
In a court document, Bridges’ attorney Jonathan Milling said: “Straub and Polo have demonstrated a history of vindictive, baseless and frivolous litigation directed at former lovers which serves as an abuse of the legal process.”