PHOENIX (CN) – A Phoenix couple claim a self-professed “centimillionaire” refuses to return their $3.5 million investment – and that their lawsuit in Maricopa County Court is one of 40 in which defendant Robert Alpert is entangled.
Wayne DeStefano and Jennifer claim that Alpert induced them to invest more than $7 million in a “Charitable Remainder Uni-Trust,” for its supposed “asset protection and tax benefits.”
They say Alpert, of Maricopa County, holds himself out as “a business and financial expert” and a “sophisticated investor.”
Alpert allegedly claimed that his “unitrust” can “own a company that could make investments” under a “tax-free umbrella.”
To persuade the DeStefanos to invest, they say, Alpert showed a diagram of the unitrust’s structure, describing it as “The Alpert Family Trust,” which owned 98.9 percent of co-defendant James Ventures, a Texas-based limited partnership.
In the diagram, Alpert showed that “the remainder of JV was owned .01 percent by Alpert and 1 percent by Alpert’s wholly owned company known as Danro Corporation,” according to the complaint.
The diagram also showed that James Ventures owned co-defendant James Investments, also of Texas, the DeStefanos say.
Alpert claimed that the unitrust would provide DeStefano “with use of the funds deposited by transferring amounts back to DeStefano upon his request, which amounts would be characterized as ‘loans.'”
The DeStefanos say Alpert claimed they would not have to pay taxes on that income, because their money would be in the trust.
Wayne DeStefano claims he sent more than $7 million to Alpert between February 2009 and January 2010. He says Alpert returned about $3.5 million in late 2009 and early 2010.
But DeStefano says he began to question Alpert’s “representations about his purported special knowledge and unique CRUT benefits [Charitable Remainder Uni-Trust],” and began to suspect that the IRS might see the CRUT as “a prohibited step transaction.”
The complaint continues: “”DeStefano also became aware of prior litigation involving Alpert trusts in Texas, where his actions were described by the court as ‘tax shenanigans.’ As Destefano eventually learned, the Texas case is one of approximately 40 past or present lawsuits involving Alpert.”
Upon learning that, DeStefano says, he asked Alpert for information to confirm the legality of the unitrust and the related tax plan, but Alpert has not provided him with any such confirmation.
DeStefano says he asked for his remaining $3.5 million back, but Alpert didn’t do that either.
The DeStefanos want their money back.
They are represented by Andrea Marconi with Fennemore Craig.