Real estate tycoon Mohamed Hadid started violating Los Angeles city building codes even before he began constructing his notorious mega mansion, a jury heard on Monday.
In 2011, after buying the plot on Strada Vecchia in ritzy Bel Air, he 'illegally demolished' the house that was already there and started 'illegally grading' tons of earth on the hillside property, said Gary Lincenberg, attorney for the neighbors suing Hadid on the second day of a trial that could cost him millions if he loses.
Brian Olson, a grading inspector for LA's Department of Building and Safety, told the eight men and four women of the jury at the trial in Santa Monica that when he inspected Hadid's site in March 2011, he saw work being done that had not been granted permits.
There were roads being cut, vegetation stripped from the hill the site sits on, and 'close to vertical' cuts being made in the hillside, without the support of retaining walls, said Olson, who is now retired.
Property developer tycoon Mohamed Hadid was seen leaving his second day of trial in Los Angeles on Monday
A court heard the father of supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid had allegedly begun violating building codes even before he started constructing his illegal monster mansion in Bel Air
In 2019 a judge ordered Hadid's mega-mansion to be torn down out of safety concerns, saying it was a nuisance and a danger to the public, but it is yet to be demolished
'They should not have been doing any of that stuff,' he added. 'They got carried away.'
Olson issued an 'order to comply' - meaning that the violations had to be corrected.
But a year later, when he inspected the site again, he said, 'There were the same violations - a year had passed with no compliance.'
The jury heard that between 2011 and 2018, Olson issued a total of 15 orders to comply after inspecting Hadid's property and finding City code violations.
An order to comply is issued when an inspector finds unpermitted work being done and the developer is ordered to comply by correcting the violation - or his building permit will be revoked.
Calling such a high number of orders to comply 'very unusual', Olson added that in 14 years as a City inspector he had 'never seen so many permit violations' on one property.
Earlier, Lincenberg addressed the jury again to underline the fraud claim brought by neighbors Joe and Bibi Horacek and John and Judy Bedrosian in their lawsuit against the 72-year-old Hadid over his mammoth, half-built house that he once hoped to sell for $100million.
Standing in front of a TV screen that bore the words, 'Hadid's M.O: Fraud,' Lincenberg told the court, 'Hadid did not want the neighbors to know' the size house he was planning to build.
In April 2012 when Hadid got his permit to build the property, the neighbors hadn't filed a complaint because they assumed Hadid - father of supermodels Bella and Gigi Hadid - would be constructing the 15,000 square foot home that appeared in the renderings that were posted outside the building site, said the attorney.
'They thought what he built would be safe and legal,' added Lincenberg……'They didn't know about the second set of plans he (Hadid) had.
'Hadid told his building contractor not to tell anyone know that he was building an oversized structure.'
Attorneys for neighbors suing the developer accused Hadid of misleading them for years during Monday's hearing
Hadid, pictured with his attorney Jeff Reeves outside of court on Monday, is accused of 'illegally demolishing' an existing house after buying a plot on Strada Vecchia in 2011 and 'illegally grading' tons of earth on the hillside property
Reeves responded with his client's countersuit against neighbor Joe Horacek - the founding member of a powerful LA law firm - claiming Horacek tried to extort $3.5million from Hadid in exchange for using his influence to make the developer's problems 'go away'
Gigi and Bella Hadid's father faces $60million in losses in the civil suit over his condemned Los Angeles mega-mansion
By late 2013, 'it's becoming clear to the neighbors that the building does not look like the rendering,' said Lincenberg, who, at last Friday's first day of trial, told the jury that the house ballooned to a whopping 35,000 feet.
He told the jury that Hadid tried to hide illegal work by using fake walls, tarps and trapdoors.
'His neighbors were completely misled by Hadid,' added Lincenberg who said that the neighbors would have filed suit against the developer earlier if they had known from the beginning the size of mansion he was intending to build.
In his opening statement on day one of the trial, Lincenberg told the jury of the 'stress and anxiety, the constant fear and sleepless nights,' the Horaceks and the Bedrosian have suffered for the last nine years while the giant house looming over them was under construction.
Hadid's attorney, Jeff Reeves responded with his client's countersuit against Horacek - the founding member of a powerful LA law firm.
He claimed the neighbor tried to 'shake down' the real estate mogul by attempting to extort $3.5million from Hadid in exchange for using his influence to make the developer's problems with the City over his mansion project 'go away.'
Neighbors have been fighting for years for the demolition of the property because of all the alleged unapproved construction. The development of the home has also been an eyesore to nearby residents and now a danger due to heavy Los Angeles rain
Attorney Gary Lincenberg pointed out that according to expert opinion, piles supporting the house - which were not sunk deep enough into the hillside to comply with local building codes - 'will fail in the event of a 24-year earthquake or a 10-20-year rain event'
Reeves also contended that Horacek has a personal vendetta against the Palestinian-American businessman, claiming Horacek 'wants to destroy the man (Hadid) personally, ostracize him from the Bel Air community.'
Hadid's mega-mansion should have been torn down by now, thanks to a demolition order made almost two years ago by Judge Craig Karlan - the same judge overseeing the civil trial - who declared it to be a 'clear and present danger' to the community around it
It's still standing because Hadid - once a multi-millionaire - claims he doesn't have the $5million it would cost to demolish it. And a buyer who had offered $9million to purchase the building - and tear it down - recently backed out of the deal.
Attorney Gary Lincenberg filed a motion last week 'requiring the City to demolish the structure at 901 Strada Vecchia (the address of Hadid's mega-mansion)'
Lincenberg, on behalf of the neighbors, has filed a motion in Judge Karlan's court, blasting the City of LA for allowing Hadid to get away with building his giant, illegal house in the first place and demanding that the city tear int down it immediately because of the threat it poses to the nearby homes it towers over.
That motion is still pending as of Monday.
The neighbors, led by Horacek, 79 - a retired entertainment lawyer with firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, whose clients have included movie star Michael Douglas and TV's Dr. Phil - were in court today, except for John Bedrosian who is in his 80s and is recovering from a broken hip. Bedrosian did attend via Zoom.
Hadid declared last October that he's broke - facing a whopping $60million in losses over the headline-making mega-mansion, half of that his own money and the other half loans.
Hadid also claimed that he owes $15million in court judgements against him, he's had to 'drastically downsize' from a 48,000 square foot home to a more 'modest' one, he's made no money from the caviar and champagne products that carry his name, and his famous daughters' eyewear line - also using the Hadid brand - has gone belly up.
He has tried several legal moves to try to stop or delay the wrecking ball. First he filed chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming he 'couldn't afford' the $5 million demo cost. That was dismissed.
Then he filed an appeal against Judge Karlan's order to tear down the giant house. That too was denied.
Hadid puts most of the blame for his troubles on 'nightmare neighbor' Joe Horacek (pictured in front of his home with Hadid's home in the background), who he says became 'obsessed' with the case
In May last year he launched a desperate bid to save his building project by asking California's Supreme Court to send the case back to Judge Karlan's court. But the state's highest court torpedoed his efforts, refusing even to hear the case.
Then, in a last-ditch move, Hadid's lawyers filed a second appeal - this time against Judge Karlan's decision to appoint a receiver to oversee destruction of the house. He lost that appeal as well.
Hadid was prosecuted criminally by the City of LA in 2015 after he refused to comply with 'stop work' orders.
He pleaded no contest to three criminal charges involving illegal construction and in July 2017 he was told he would serve a 180-day jail sentence if he didn't reduce the size of the house and bring it into compliance with city building codes - or demolish it - within the three years of probation the judge also imposed.
In addition, he was fined $3,000, ordered to pay $14,191 in fees to LA city, and serve 200 hours of community service.
A few months after Hadid's criminal convictions and sentences, his neighbors - unhappy with what they saw as a slap on the wrist from the criminal court - filed the civil lawsuit against him that's finally getting to court.