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The Miami Herald gets put on notice over ‘reckless’ report on digital license plates

An attorney claims the article contains “patently false” allegations and several misrepresentations.

New York attorney Sarmad Khojasteh is demanding the Miami Herald remove an article published Thursday outlining a series of financial malfeasance and business ineptitude he claims are “inexplicable and reckless” inaccuracies involving his client.

The article outlines Mashhur Zarif Haque‘s past financial troubles including a federal bankruptcy and several civil lawsuits and makes claims against Haque’s company, Draiver.

That company is listed in an appropriations request this Legislative Session seeking $250,000 for a one-year pilot project to develop a digital license plate program in the state.

If the article is not removed, Khojasteh writes that he will take necessary steps “to ensure that the company’s and Mr. Haque’s interests are fully protected.”

The letter claims the Fresh Take Florida story published in the Miami Herald “none of the allegations asserted against Mr. Haque ever were proven or admitted” and that all of Haque’s financial struggles stemmed from the 2008 economic crisis. The letter also claims all lawsuits have been settled “to the full satisfaction of creditors.”

The $159,000 in past due federal taxes the story claims Haque owes has been resolved, the letter states.

The letter lays out three specific allegations in the the article that “grossly misrepresents the company, its management and the services it provides.

The Fresh Take Florida article describes the digital license plates as having numerous features including the ability to “renew registrations, pay tolls, track vehicle use, warn police when a car Is stolen, show customized messages and even display advertisements when a vehicle is parked.”

That description, Khojasteh argues, is from a product sold by rival company Reviver. Further, Haque’s attorney contests the paper’s claim that Draiver had “no apparent real-world experience with digital license plates.” The company possesses five patents involving digital plates, of which the article references just one, Khojasteh writes.

Khojasteh also says Fresh Take Florida diminishes Draiver’s business. The story references “two small offices” and mentions just three people inside. Khojasteh points out the company employs 19 people and generates millions of dollars annually “with thousands of independent contractors around the United States and multiple Fortune 500 companies.”

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Finally, the letter alleges the article misrepresented how Haque would be compensated arguing the $250,000 appropriation would be made to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, “which would use the funds to create a pilot program in which the company would participate.”

“The company, in turn, would be investing millions of dollars in research and development to the pilot program,” Khojasteh wrote. “The notion that any funds would be paid to Mr. Haque, personally, is patently false.”

“The article contains multiple plainly defamatory, false and prejudicial statements concerning the company and Mr. Haque, all of which are flatly disproven by publicly available information,” Khojasteh writes. “The article, which amounts to nothing short of a take down of Mr. Haque and the company, makes no attempt to reconcile its one-sided and misleading claims with the publicly available information.”

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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