SANTA MONICA (CN) – Comedian Jon Lovitz sued the manager of his comedy club, claiming the man embezzled $100,000 and ran the club so poorly it failed, costing Lovitz his entire $1.5 million investment.
Lovitz sued Frank Kelley in Superior Court.
Lovitz is best known for his work on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” from 1985 to 1990.
The complaint states: “Although this case concerns the operation of a comedy club, the wrongful and fraudulent conduct of defendant Frank Kelley (‘Kelley’) at issue is no laughing matter. In particular, Kelley has repeatedly and shamefully abused plaintiff’s trust by secretly misappropriating significant funds which plaintiff entrusted to him for the operation of the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Universal City, California (‘the club’), but which Kelley instead used for his own benefit to pay for his own personal expenses.
“After blatantly lying to plaintiff about his credentials and expertise as ‘the best’ and most qualified person to manage a comedy club in Los Angeles, thus causing plaintiff to trust him with the club’s financial operations and invest more than $1.5 million dollars into the club, Kelley proceeded to treat the club as his own personal piggy bank, taking monies that should have either been paid to the club’s performers or used to pay the club’s expenses, and instead converting that money for his own personal benefit and use. Indeed, although the club has hosted numerous sold-out shows for some of the biggest performers in comedy, Kelley has failed to pay many of these performers the monies they were promised, choosing instead to keep this money for himself. While Kelley has obviously benefitted significantly from such financial scheming, the club, on the other hand, has fallen into financial disarray, and plaintiff has lost the substantial sums of money he invested into the club.”
Lovitz claims he asked Kelley to manage the club in 2009 because Kelley said he had experience managing improv clubs in Los Angeles.
Kelley’s main job was to handle the money, which gave him “access to and control over the club’s books and records, including the checks for the club’s bank accounts,” Lovitz says in the complaint.
Lovitz claims his club issued Kelley a business credit card to cover the club’s expenses.
“Although the card bore Kelley’s name, it was the club (financed by plaintiff) that paid the charges incurred on the card,” the complaint states. “In fact, on numerous occasions, Kelley induced plaintiff to transfer significant sums of money into the club’s bank account (separate and apart from plaintiff’s investment) to pay for charges that were purportedly incurred on the card in connection with the operation of the club.” (Parentheses in complaint).
Lovitz claims Kelley used club checks and the credit card to pay for his own expenses, swiping more than $100,000 “instead of honestly and dutifully performing his job as manager of the club and plaintiff’s fiduciary.”
“[N]ot only did Kelley intentionally fail to disclose the aforesaid payments of Kelley’s personal expenses, but Kelley actively concealed them from plaintiff by making false and deceptive statements to plaintiff, and by falsifying the club’s books and records,” the complaint states.
Lovitz claims he discovered Kelley’s sticky fingers by examining the club’s records, which contradicted Kelley’s statements.
Lovitz says he asked Kelley five times to give him copies of the credit card statements, but Kelley “steadfastly” refused to hand them over.
“In particular, Kelley has refused to … provide any accounting of the expenses paid for by the club on the card. Most recently, Kelley has absconded with all of the checks and the check register for the club’s bank accounts, which he has refused to turn back over to plaintiff,” the complaint states.
Kelley’s failure to pay performers forced Lovitz to pay them “tens of thousands of dollars” out of his own pocket, Lovitz claims. He also says Kelley did not pay the club’s employees.
Lovitz seeks compensatory and punitive damages for conversion, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
He is represented by Martin Singer with Lavely & Singer.
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