NEW YORK (CN) – A former pilot and his family bilked Aerowest out of “hundreds of millions” through a series of bogus lawsuits, the Germany-based private jet company claims in Federal Court.
Gerhard Freitag, now living in Florida, is a former shareholder of defendant Video International Development Corp. Aerowest says he, his wife, Stephanie Freitag, stepson Bernd Bressel and long-time friend Ulrich Wucherpfennig filed bogus lawsuits to extort money from the company.
Both Wucherpfennig and Freitag are former Aerowest pilots. All – including Video International – are defendants in the case.
The allegedly bogus lawsuits were part of a commissions scheme for the sale of airplanes by Aerowest.
In 2005, the defendants took $300,000 on two bogus commissions for legitimate airplane sales to Aerowest through forged documents, according to the complaint.
Then in 2014, they fabricated a sales transaction stating that they bought Aerowest in 2000 for 50,000 deutschemarks, and then sued in a German court to enforce the transaction, according to the complaint.
The trio then invented an oral contract with Aerowest shareholder and plaintiff Werner Eggersgluess in 2006, the complaint states. In that contract, Eggersgluess purportedly promised to pay them 250,000 euros for “intangible assets” provided to his company, XForm.
They doctored a promissory note and sued for payment, according to the complaint.
The three then falsely claimed in court that another 150,000 euros was owed.
“The fabricated transactions, fake documents and false testimony required extensive coordination among the defendants and were designed to defraud the plaintiffs of their assets,” the complaint says.
The whole ordeal began in July 2005 when Wucherpfennig allegedly looted $150,000 in cash out of Aerowest in six separate installments. He then wired the money to the Freitags in Florida, according to the complaint.
They acted as if the six doctored bills for commissions on the sales of a private jets were legitimate, but in reality, “they simply stole” the money, Aerowest says in the complaint.
Unaware of the fraud at the time, Aerowest then claimed the payments as deductible business expenses on taxes. But German authorities found them suspicious and rejected the deductions, according to the 26-page complaint.
After squeezing $150,000 out of Aerowest, Gerhard Freitag and Wucherpfennig then faked another commission for the actual sale of a Cessna Citation 560 to Atlas Air Service in 2001. That plane was then sold to a third party.
Defendants falsely claimed there was an oral agreement made for a $150,000 commission for the sale.
When Aerowest refused to pay the demanded commission, defendants forged a contract and filed a bogus lawsuit in a German court, according to the complaint.
They then falsely testified in a German court in March 2014, but the judge “saw through the fraud” and rejected their claims as “groundless” the next month, the complaint says.
Video International appealed, using more “fraudulent testimony in an attempt to convince the appellate court to reverse the trial court’s ruling,” Aerowest says in the complaint.
“The sham succeeded,” however, and the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision, finding that the commission agreements were valid. Aerowest appealed and that case is pending, the complaint states.
Meanwhile, defendants falsely claimed that Gerhard Freitag owned Aerowest.
The company is now owned by Aerowest’s parent company, Ewers and Karlsetter. Gerhard Freitag received the right to buy all of Aerowest’s capital stock for 50,000 deutschemarks in 1997 but he never exercised that option, the complaint says.
Gerhard Freitag and Bressel were then caught selling audio-visual systems without XForm’s knowledge to take in another 100,000 euros, according to the complaint. The men then claimed they couldn’t access the inventory in a warehouse because of snow.
Stephanie Freitag allegedly participated in the bilking too, when her attorney allegedly fired off a letter in October 2014 demanding that plaintiff Eggersgluess, a former executive at defendants’ company, pay her 100,000 euros based on a forged note.
Eggersgluess refused to pay, according to the complaint, but “undeterred” and “in keeping with their practice” defendants sued him too, the complaint says.
Stephanie falsely claimed that Eggersgluess promised to pay her 250,000 euros in 2006 for “intangible assets,” and that the bogus note was legitimate, according to the complaint.
“The testimony was false,” the complaint says.
Video International then sued in Nassau County Supreme Court for breach of contract over the “secret sale” of XForm’s systems for 150,000 euros. That action is also pending.
Aerowest is joined by Martin Ewers, Wolfgang Karlstetter, XForm Systems and Eggersgluess as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
They are represented by Richard Chassin with Buckler, Blynn, Muffly, Chassin & Hosinski LLP in New York.