MIAMI — Michelle Pooch, star of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Miami, is being sued by a former football player who invested into her new business, a nail salon that also serves cocktails to the tunes of a live DJ.
Dailymail.com had exclusive access to the court file, and it shows former National Football League tackle Branden Albert, one of the league’s most fearsome line players for eight years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins, invested $230,000 into Pooch’s venture.
The business model sounded like a great one, according to the lawsuit.
Pooch, 37, a successful DJ whose presence on the show came from her reputation as “Miami’s queen of nightlife,” and boyfriend Jason Cuza are planning to open a slew of nail salons where patrons could get cocktails made from Remy Martin Cognac as well as house music from a live DJ.
The name: Get Nailed.
And last year, Albert was the first to invest because he “saw tremendous opportunities to expand in the future,” the lawsuit reads.
But with one of the nail salons recently opened in downtown Miami and another in the works for later this year in Miami Beach, the 33-year-old retired ball player now is suing to get his money back.
The lawsuit shows the reality TV star, whose real name is Michelle Janco, allegedly used Albert’s seed funds for things like her salary and a chauffeured car.
“The bottom line is these people (Pooch and Cuza) took advantage of my client’s naivete,” said Michael Schlesinger, the baller’s attorney. “They were all friends. The papers were not even drawn properly. Pooch filed incorporation papers after they got Mr. Albert’s money, and he is not in any ownership papers.”
Worse, said Schlesinger, Pooch and Cuza never gave Albert a business plan and profitability estimates.
“We tried to resolve this matter for weeks but their answers didn’t give us much comfort we could resolve it out of court,” Schlesinger said.
According to the lawsuit, Albert thought his investment would buy him 60 percent of the nascent company and he would be entitled to profits and consulted on major business decisions.
Instead, Albert found out his name is nowhere to be found on incorporation papers, and his investment only paid for just one of the future chain’s location, not the entire company.
When reached on her cellphone, Pooch hung up when she was told she had been sued.
Carlos Santisteban, her lawyer, said he couldn’t comment because he hasn’t seen the lawsuit.
The estranged wife of high-profile Miami Beach nightlife impresario Tommy Puccio, whose nickname she kept when they separated, raven-haired DJ Michelle has been entrenched in the local nightscape for two decades.
The mon-of-one was picked to star alongside singers Trina and Trick Daddy on Love & Hip Hop Miami, which garnered nearly 2 million viewers per episode during a three-month run earlier this year.
Pooch was close to cast faves Shay Johnson and Liz Cifuentes. But later in the season, her friendship with Liz was tested when “queen of the Miami nightlife” Michelle stirred up a rivalry with Liz’s boyfriend Prince, South Beach’s “lifestyle ambassador.”
It’s little surprise, meanwhile, that Albert claims Pooch took advantage of him.
During his high school and college playing days at University of Virginia, Albert was famous for his academic problems that saw him re-do the ninth grade three times.
Virginia was the only university that recruited Albert because of his low grades, but the school had to send him to a military academy to lift up his grades before he could be accepted.
Still, Albert is believed to have made upward of $60 million in his eight-year NFL career, including $47 million for five years with the Dolphins.
In 2014, he was on the Forbes list of the best paid NFL players with about $19 million. He retired last year.