Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Ezra Katz

Peter Mekras
President

Peter Mekras

Chief Operating Officer

Luis Benitez

Charles Penan
Executive Vice President

Charles Penan

Boaz Ashbel
Managing Director

Boaz Ashbel

Jason Shapiro
Managing Director

Jason Shapiro

Howard Taft
Senior Managing Director

Howard Taft

Sean Harrington
Managing Director

Sean Harrington

Brell Tarich
Director

Brell Tarich

Joel Zusman
Senior Associate

Joel Zusman

Jason Katz
Vice President

Jason Katz

Karl Thompson
Financial Analyst

Karl Thomson

Financial Analyst

Vince Procacci

Accountant

Bernadette Calais

Executive Assistant

Lorraine Fisher-Ortega

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Ezra Katz

As Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Aztec Group, Ezra Katz has been described as Florida’s leading real estate deal maker and financial engineer focusing on initiating innovative strategies for creating joint ventures and solving complex real estate transactions.

Mr. Katz began his real estate career in 1971 after having graduated from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. After having spent three years in the residential construction business as a Construction Superintendent in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Katz joined US Realty Investments, a NYSE equity REIT, where he oversaw development, management and workouts of over 50 properties throughout the US and Puerto Rico.


After liquidating the assets of US Realty Investments in 1980, Mr. Katz formed Aztec Group in 1981 to provide commercial real estate and mortgage brokerage services for investment sales, mortgage financing, and equity placement. Under his leadership, Aztec Group became recognized as the premier real estate investment banking firm in Florida.

Mr. Katz formed Mayan Properties, a merchant bank, in 1993 to invest in real estate transactions as a principal in a variety of partnerships including a diverse portfolio of office buildings, shopping centers, residential land development, hotels, industrial, and healthcare/senior housing. The combination of Aztec Group as an investment banker and Mayan Properties as a merchant bank allowed Mr. Katz to be involved in over $12 billion in closed transactions as a principal and as an intermediary/broker.

EDUCATION

B.S. in Industrial Engineering; Ohio State University

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Broker, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

President

Peter Mekras

As President of Aztec Group, Peter Mekras is responsible for leading the firm’s capital market, investment sales, and merchant banking platforms. Mr. Mekras brings a track record representing over $2 billion of closed sale and capital markets transactions including debt, equity, and joint ventures. Mr. Mekras has diverse experience in commercial real estate with a deep expertise spanning 20,000 units in multifamily, fractured condominium communities, and land.

Prior to rejoining Aztec Group, Mr. Mekras was a Senior Vice President at CREC in Coral Gables. At CREC, Mr. Mekras was a member of the firm’s Strategic Team and established the multifamily and land brokerage practices, completing over $675 million in sale and debt placement transactions. Prior to joining CREC, Mr. Mekras was a Managing Director at Aztec Group, where he completed forty brokerage transactions.

Mr. Mekras has been a Florida resident for over 40 years, is an active participant in the University of Miami Mentor Program and the Legal Services of Greater Miami Foundation’s Investment Committee.

EDUCATION

B.A. in Business Administration with concentration in Real Estate Finance; Southern Methodist University

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Broker, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

Chief Operating Officer

Luis Benitez

As Chief Operating Officer of Aztec Group, Luis Benitez’ responsibilities are focused on financial asset management. His duties include overseeing all existing investments, financial performance reporting & forecasting, investor relations and the assurance that all financial and managerial business practices are in accordance with policies established by management.

Mr. Benitez’ background includes a wide range of experience including public and private accounting and an extensive managerial background in the real estate construction and property management.

Prior to joining Aztec, Mr. Benitez held the position of Financial Services Tax Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP where he oversaw the tax compliance and consulting for a wide variety of local and national real estate clients and transactions.

EDUCATION

B.B.A. with concentration in Finance & Accounting; Florida International University

M.S. in Taxation; Florida International University

LICENSURE

Licensed Certified Public Accountant, Florida

Executive Vice President

Charles Penan

As Executive Vice President of Aztec Group, Charles Penan brings over $2.5 billion of closed transaction experience that includes acquisition, disposition, development, bridge, equity, mezzanine, joint venture, and traditional debt placement for all types of commercial real estate nationwide.

Prior to joining Aztec Group in 2009, Mr. Penan spent five years at Cohen Financial working with one of the firm’s top capital market teams. Prior to that, Mr. Penan was an Associate with Northmarq Capital, formerly Legg Mason Real Estate Services, in Boca Raton, Florida.

Mr. Penan has been a resident of South Florida for over 20 years, and is an active Board member of AIPAC, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and Young Leaders of United Way of Miami-Dade. Mr. Penan was honored as a member of the 2014 class of Top 40 Under 40 by the South Florida Business Journal.

EDUCATION

B.B.A.; University of Miami

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

Managing Director

Boaz Ashbel

As Managing Director of Aztec Group, Boaz Ashbel focuses on hospitality acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures, development, and debt and equity financing. His area of expertise involves a variety of hospitality property transactions and financing, including select and full-service hotels, branded and unbranded resorts, as well as condominium hotels.

Mr. Ashbel’s 35 years of hospitality experience includes acquisitions and dispositions, debt, mezzanine, and equity financing, joint venture creation and capital restructuring, development, asset management, economic impact analysis, financial analyses, appraisals, and operational reviews for a variety of existing and proposed hotels, resorts, and other leisure-oriented properties.

Over his career, Mr. Ashbel has been involved and instrumental in the consumation of several hundred transactions representing an aggregate value of well over $2 billion. During the past 25 years, he has been involved as a principal in a number of hospitality related projects, gaining a keen understanding of operational and ownership related issues.

EDUCATION

B.S. in Hotel Administration; Cornell University

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Broker, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Broker, Florida

Managing Director

Jason Shapiro

As Managing Director of Aztec Group, Jason Shapiro brings over 25 years of experience in commercial real estate investment banking, and leads all capital markets activities for the firm. Mr. Shapiro’s primary focus is arranging all forms of debt; including permanent, bridge, construction, mezzanine, and participating loans, as well as equity and joint venture placements for the firm’s own account and on behalf of the firm’s extensive client base. Mr. Shapiro has been involved in and closed transactions spanning all commercial and residential real estate asset types totaling over $3 billion, and encompassing in excess of 50 million square feet.

Prior to joining Aztec, Mr. Shapiro spent seven years as Vice President of Thomas D. Wood & Company’s Coral Gables, Florida office. Mr. Shapiro was responsible for the origination and placement of long-term, income property loans on behalf of domestic life insurance companies. During his tenure at Thomas D. Wood & Company, Mr. Shapiro closed over 100 commercial real estate financing transactions.

EDUCATION

B.B.A. with concentration in Finance; University of Miami

M.B.A. with concentration in Finance; University of Miami

LICENSURE
Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

Senior Managing Director

Howard Taft

As Senior Managing Director of Aztec Group, Howard Taft brings over 40 years and over $4 billion of commercial real estate capital markets and sales experience. Mr. Taft’s primary focus is the origination, analysis, and placement of real estate debt and equity throughout the United States. Mr. Taft has closed transactions involving mezzanine, equity, and debt financing for acquisitions, development, and refinances for various product types including multifamily, retail, office, note transactions, office, new construction, condominiums, residential and office condominium conversions, land, and mixed-use properties. Mr. Taft has arranged Joint Venture Partners as a Principal and Intermediary. Prior to joining Aztec, Mr. Taft was Senior Managing Director at Cohen Financial, Senior Managing Director at Holliday Fenoglio Fowler (HFF), and a Senior Vice President at CREC in Coral Gables. Mr. Taft established and managed the Miami office of HFF and Cohen Financial.

Mr. Taft is affiliated with various organizations including National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), Executive Committee/Advisory Board of University of Florida Warrington College of Business, and is former President and Member of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers and Mortgage Bankers.

EDUCATION
B.S. in Real Estate & Accounting; University of Florida

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Broker, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida


Managing Director

Sean Harrington

As Managing Director of Aztec Group, Sean Harrington brings a track record of over $5 billion in commercial real estate investment banking. Mr. Harrington’s primary focus is arranging all forms of equity, joint ventures, and debt including permanent, bridge, construction, and mezzanine financing for private and institutional clients.

Prior to joining Aztec, Mr. Harrington was a Senior Associate at NorthStar Realty Finance Corporation in Century City, California – a New York City-based REIT. Mr. Harrington was responsible for the origination and underwriting of bridge, mezzanine, and preferred equity financing for multifamily, retail, office, and hospitality properties across the US. During his tenure at NorthStar Realty Finance, Mr. Harrington was involved in over $2.5 billion of commercial real estate transactions.

EDUCATION
B.B.A. ; Florida Atlantic University

LICENSURE
Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

Director

Brell Tarich

As Director of Aztec Group, Brell Tarich focuses on advising clients on commercial real estate debt, equity, and investment sale transactions. Mr. Tarich is responsible for transaction origination, underwriting, and deal placement.

Prior to joining Aztec Group, Mr. Tarich spent three years at Rialto Capital as a Senior Associate in their Miami office focusing on portfolio management and portfolio underwriting. Mr. Tarich also oversaw the litigation of its small balance loan non-performing assets. Prior to that, Mr. Tarich spent one year as an Associate at The Tarich Law Firm.

EDUCATION

B.S. in Finance; University of Florida

J.D.; Florida State University College of Law

LICENSURE

Admitted to Florida Bar, 2013

Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate, Florida

Senior Associate

Joel Zusman

As Senior Associate of Aztec Group, Joel Zusman is responsible for property and transaction marketing, including property underwriting, financial analysis and modeling, creating marketing materials for financing requests and offering memorandums, coordinating buyer/lender due diligence, transaction execution and retail asset management. While at the Aztec Group, Mr. Zusman has been involved in sales and capital markets transactions with a value in excess of $1 billion.

Prior to joining the Aztec Group in 2015, Mr. Zusman was a Senior Financial Analyst with CBRE’s Florida Investment Property Retail team from 2008 – 2015, where he participated in the sale of over 12.5 million square feet of shopping centers with an aggregate value of $2 billion.

EDUCATION

B.B.A. with concentration in Finance; University of Miami

M.B.A. with concentration in Finance; University of Miami

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate, Florida

Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator, Florida

Vice President

Jason Katz

Financial Analyst

Karl Thomson

As Financial Analyst of Aztec Group, Karl Thomson is responsible for creating and analyzing financial models, statements, and proformas. Additionally, he formulates advanced market and asset-level analyses that accompany decision-making processes throughout the life cycle of property investments. Mr. Thomson also coordinates due diligence and marketing processes and prepares detailed documentation for internal and external purposes including memorandums, pitch books, and private placements. While at Aztec Group, Mr. Thomson has been involved in closings of sales and capital markets transactions with a value in excess of $375 million.

Prior to joining the Aztec Group, Mr. Thomson held analytical roles in real estate brokerage, development, and acquisitions.

EDUCATION

M.A. Joint Honours with concentration in International Business & International Relations; University of Dundee; United Kingdom

M.B.A. with concentration in Real Estate; University of Miami

LICENSURE

Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate, Florida

Financial Analyst

Vince Procacci

As Financial Analyst of Aztec Group, Vince Procacci is responsible for financial analysis, formulating marketing materials and offering memoranda, underwriting, due diligence, and pre-closing task management. Mr. Procacci has extensive experience in hospitality with responsibilities that include asset management for leisure merchant banking investments and opportunities. While at Aztec Group, Mr. Procacci has been involved in sales and capital markets transactions with a value in excess of $350 million.

Prior to joining Aztec Group, Mr. Procacci spent four years at a Florida-based developer leading the hospitality expansion efforts with a Dual Brand, LEED-certified hotel development project in Miami. Prior to that, Mr. Procacci was a economic and financial analyst at a Brazilian investment fund’s Washington, D.C. office.

EDUCATION

B.A. in International Economic Policy; American University

M.A. in International Trade & Investment Policy; George Washington University

Certificate in Hotel Real Estate Investments & Asset Management; Cornell University

LICENSURE

Level I & II Chartered Financial Analyst Exam

Accountant

Bernadette Calais

Executive Assistant

Lorraine Fisher-Ortega