MANHATTAN (CN) – A parking garage auctioned off $1.7 million worth of vintage cars that had been stored there for more than 50 years, including a 1931 Duesenberg that was sold to Jay Leno, to satisfy some “trivial parking bills,” the heirs of John Straus claim in New York County.
They claim the defendants took advantage of Straus knowing he suffered from dementia, and refused to pay Straus any of the immense profits it made, but gave only “a purported $40,000 credit toward his purported parking bills.”
Straus’ father, Herbert, bought the Duesenberg Model J new in 1931, the complaint states. Only 470 Model Js were made, between 1928 and 1937, making it one of the most sought-after cars in the world. Also mentioned in the complaint is a 1930 Rolls-Royce.
The defendants allegedly seized the cars from the East 76th Street parking garage and auctioned them too “to satisfy certain relatively trivial parking bills.”
The heir claim Straus had paid all his parking bills, that “these purported auctions and sales were knowingly conducted at a time when Straus was incapable of protecting his rights due to his deterioration from dementia”.
And, they say, “These purported auctions and sales were nothing more than a sham, intended to conceal the wrongful taking of Straus’s vehicles by defendants; the wrongful private sale of the Duesenberg to defendant Jay Leno; the wrongful private sale of the Rolls Royce to defendant Dennis Ricca; and to avoid paying Straus any monies for his cherished vehicles.
“In fact, despite a purported $40,000 credit toward his purported parking bills, defendants have wrongfully refused to pay Straus or his Estate any portion of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in surplus monies they netted from these unlawful sales.”
The family says that “prior to its unlawful taking by the Garage Entities, Garage Persons, and Leno in or about December 2005, it was the last known original-condition, original family-owned Model J in existence. Indeed, it only had 7,085 miles on its odometer.”
Leno allegedly bought the Duesenberg for $180,000.
Here are the defendants: Big Dog Productions, Chapman Consulting LLC, East 76th St. Realty Corp., Empire Lien Service, American Lien Service, Garage Management Co., Garage Management Corp., Tamgold Garage Corp., Tamgold Garage, Windsor 332 Garage Corp., Windsor Garage, Windsor Garage LLC, Windsor Garage Partners LLC, Windsor Parking LLC, Richard Chapman, Norman Goodfarb, Gordon Hamm, Jay Leno aka James Douglas Muir Leno, Skender Mollabeqiri, Dennis Ricca, Stuart Wittenberg, and Charles Zambuto.
Straus’ estate is represented by Paul Summit with Sullivan & Worcester.