MIAMI (CN) - A family that says it owns the Caravaggio painting "David Killing Goliath" claims in court that lawyers created a trust "with the sole purpose of obtaining power over the famous masterpiece," then sold it for a fraction of its value, without authorization, and refuse to disclose the buyer's name.
Joao Teixeira Nascimiento, Elena Teixeira and Joao Teixeira Gueits sued Martin C. Boire P.A., Martin Boire and Mark Press in Federal Court. Boire runs his law office in Volusia County, north of Orlando, according to the long, tangled complaint. Press also is an attorney.
Both attorneys formerly represented the Teixeira family in the ill-fated Caravaggio transaction, and Boire is a trustee of the Caravaggio Trust - of which the Teixeiras claim to be beneficiaries.
The Teixeiras seek damages on 10 counts, including conspiracy to defraud, breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, and gross negligence.
They claim that the defendants, with others, "created the Caravaggio Trust with the sole purpose of obtaining power over the famous masterpiece and Degas painting in order to deprive the Beneficiaries of their multimillion-dollar assets. The Trustees assigned themselves, without the Beneficiaries' authorization, knowledge or consent, a Security Agreement; Addendum to Security Agreement; an Assumption of Debt and Guarantee of Payment of Debt, in order to file unjustified attorney's fees liens against the multimillion-dollar 'David Killing Goliath' masterpiece, to ultimately file a complaint to foreclose on the corpus of the trust in order to sell the masterpiece and Degas painting to collect the aforementioned attorney fees."
According to the complaint, the drawn-out legal drama began in 1991, when Joao Teixeira Nascimiento contacted Lapsa International Bank president Guillermo Lasally about obtaining a $5 million loan. Teixeira Nascimiento says he offered "David Killing Goliath" as collateral - he says its value was estimated as $40 million.
Teixeira Nascimiento claims that Lasally required that the painting be kept at the bank during the application process. Several months later, however, Lasally informed Teixeira Nascimiento that he did not qualify for the loan, but refused to return the painting, according to the complaint. Lasally threatened to use Boire to seize the masterpiece from the Teixeiras, according to the complaint.
Lasally is not a party to the complaint, which has only three defendants.
The Teixeira family claims that Boire drafted a settlement agreement and created the Caravaggio Trust, agreeing to store the masterpiece for Lapsa Bank in exchange for a $400,000 flat fee. They claim that Lapsa Bank agreed to pay the fee from the 25 percent ownership interest Lasally and Lapsa Bank would receive from the sale of the painting.
The Teixeiras claim that their attorneys - Raul Carreras Jr. and Marco de la Cal - pressured them to sign the agreement giving Lapsa a 25 percent stake in "David Killing Goliath," as well as exclusive rights to sell the work and another painting by 19th century Impressionist Edgar Degas.
"The attorneys threatened Nascimiento and Teixeira with total loss of the 'David Killing Goliath' masterpiece and the Edgar Degas painting if they did not sign the settlement agreement with Lapsa Bank, and the Caravaggio Trust Agreement, naming Boire through Boire, P.A., and Raul Carreras Jr., P.A., Trustees of the Caravaggio Trust multimillion-dollar assets," the complaint states.