BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A California couple allegedly arranged a sham wedding engagement between their son and the daughter of New York restaurateurs, in order to “abscond” with more than $500,000 of her family’s restaurant equipment, according to a federal lawsuit.
The son is being sued in a state court in Brooklyn, according to court documents.
Before they were lovers, fiancés or legal adversaries, Natasha Shpak and Simon Curtis were fellow students at St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine in the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman, court documents state.
In July 2004, Shpak says that she invited Curtis and his then-wife Natalia to her birthday party at her parents’ restaurant Imperator, which she describes as a “well-known upscale Russian-style restaurant and banquet hall” in Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach.
About three years later, Natalia lost a longtime battle with colon cancer, and Curtis allegedly started wooing Shpak before the dirt had settled on his late wife’s grave.
“At his wife’s funeral in California, which Shpak attended, Simon told Shpak he had romantic feelings for her and gave her various gifts,” the Eastern District of New York summarized. “In March 2007, Natasha attended Simon’s birthday party in California, where Simon informally proposed marriage and told Natasha of his family’s plans to open a restaurant for the couple, to support them in their marriage.”
By April, Curtis allegedly asked Shpak’s parents Rouben Vartanov and Lili Ougoulava to use Imperator’s custom lighting, sound systems, furniture, and kitchen equipment to furnish the California restaurant.
“Vartanov and Ougoulava hesitated to part with the Equipment until Simon and Natasha became ‘officially engaged,'” court documents state.
Within months, parents Malcolm and Judith Curtis allegedly gave their son Simon a fake diamond ring to propose to Shpak.
“On July 31, 2007, Simon brought Natasha to a dinner at the world famous and historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California,” the complaint states. “He professed his love for her once again, got down on one knee and proposed marriage. He placed a large ‘diamond’ engagement ring on Natasha’s finger. Natasha later discovered that the diamond, like the proposal, was a fake. Simon never intended to marry her and the stone was worth only a few hundred dollars.”
Within minutes, he called Vartanov and Ougoulava to announce that they became “officially engaged,” court documents state.
Shpak’s parents threw an engagement party on New Year’s Eve, where Curtis allegedly gave her fake diamond earrings – also provided by his parents – to match the ring.
In February 2008, Simon paid more than $25,000 to ship Imperator’s equipment to California, placing the more valuable items in his parents’ home, court documents state.
His parents then formed the company Simnat Global, Inc. to hold the assets of a future restaurant that would be called the Edge, whose website indicates that their son Simon eventually became its manager.
Although the entity was named after fiancés “Simon” and “Natasha,” Malcolm and Judith Curtis placed 80 percent of defendant Simnat under their own control, and 20 percent under their son’s, the complaint states.
(The Curtis family also owns the company Belzona Communications, another corporate defendant.)
On Easter Sunday in 2009, two police cars came to the Curtis family’s house while they were away to evict Shpak – without ever pressing charges against her, she says.
“Simon and Simon’s Parents had thus consummated their scheme,” the complaint states. “They had the equipment, no daughter-in-law and her predominately speaking Russian [sic] parents 3000 miles away.”
After years of allegedly ignoring demands to return the equipment, Malcolm and Judith Curtis must return to New York for the discovery phase of a case that revolves around a slew of charges including fraud, conspiracy, conversion, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract, U.S. District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf ruled on Monday.
The attorney for the defendants did not immediately respond to a voice mail request for comment.