ISLAMORADA -- It has been nearly a year since developer Net5FDA had to give up plans to build a Winn-Dixie supermarket at mile marker 81 on Upper Matecumbe Key.
But even as a new development company has since taken over the site with aims of bringing in a different, thus far undisclosed, brand-name supermarket, fallout over the Net5 project continues.
On May 5, Net5 principal Paul Rohan filed a defamation lawsuit against Islamorada resident Michael Anzalone, from whom Net5 had once planned to purchase the Galleria property, immediately next to the Winn-Dixie site. Rohan needed access to the Galleria's parking lot to meet conditions the village had set on his market's site plan.
In the suit, filed in Florida's Fourth Circuit Court in Jacksonville, Rohan charges that Anzalone has published material falsely accusing him of being "a swindler, defrauder and thief," among other things.
Rohan declined to comment on the case, saying the lawsuit speaks for itself, but its filing came after Anzalone created a website in April that uses shrill language in numerous attacks against Rohan and features a red background with a depiction of the devil in the foreground.
Among other things, the site references a $2.92 million foreclosure judgment that the Monroe County Circuit Court entered against Net5 in relation to the Winn-Dixie site. It also references an ongoing legal dispute between Anzalone and Rohan over ownership of the Galleria property. Anzalone turned over the location to an ownership group that included Rohan in 2012 as a remedy to a foreclosure action against his Gilmour South company. But in a 2013 lawsuit, Anzalone alleged that he never received payment.
Anzalone stood behind the website in an interview late last month.
"He's a bad guy who's hurt a lot of people," he said of Rohan.
Rohan's suit also alleges that Anzalone conspired with a former employee of his Planet Five Development Group in an effort to destroy Rohan's reputation. The employee, Joseph Turri, aided Anzalone in contacting Planet 5 investors, "for the purpose of conspiring to ruin Rohan and Planet Five's reputation and business," the suit says.
It accuses Turri, a former senior vice president at Planet Five, of breaching a non-disclosure agreement by providing investor contact information to Anzalone.
In an interview, Turri denied the allegation and said he had no involvement in the website. He said he plans to file a countersuit against Rohan.
Rohan alleges that the actions of Anzalone and Turri resulted in losses of approximately $1 million in investments.
He said he plans on filing more lawsuits against Anzalone in the coming weeks.