WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) - The head of the Marvel comic-book empire claims in court that a lawsuit accusing him of sending vicious hate mail is nothing more than an attempt to extort him out of millions of dollars.
In the latest motion in a multi-year Palm Beach County court battle, Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter claims his neighbor Harold Peerenboom participated in an elaborate scheme to falsely hold him and his wife responsible for a hate mail campaign against Peerenboom.
Sent out to Peerenboom's business colleagues, members of his Sloan's Curve community and other recipients, the hate mail contained unsubstantiated allegations about Peerenboom including claims that he sexually assaulted a child and was involved in a double-murder.
More hate mail was addressed directly to Peerenboom.
"We heard around the neighborhood that you had died in a car accident," one message allegedly stated, referencing Peerenboom's then-recent car crash. "I was looking into buying my ticket to Canada so I could spit, dance, urinate ... on your grave."
"No one will be happy until you leave our neighborhood -- until you leave Sloan's Curve -- get out now," the message allegedly said.
The letters began appearing around the time of a dispute between the two men over who should run the tennis center in Sloan's Curve. Peerenboom challenged the Palm Beach community's retaining of a tennis center manager supported by Perlmutter, and Perlmutter retaliated by sending out the hate mail, Peerenboom alleges.
Peerenboom initiated the litigation when he sued Perlmutter, his wife and others in Palm Beach County court in 2013, seeking damages for defamation in connection with the hate mail. Other parties have since been dropped from the lawsuit, leaving the Perlmutters as the only defendants.
A criminal investigation by the Town of Palm Beach coincided with the civil case, and according to the Marvel CEO's new filing, a recently released police report vindicates him.
The police report says that a suspicious package from a Toronto UPS store was confiscated in transit by customs officials in Detroit. The package contained latex gloves, a manila envelope, and sealed letters containing threats against Peerenboom.
The report states that investigators came to the conclusion that the sender was a man who once worked for Peerenboom's Canada-based executive placement firm known as Mandrake.
After working with Homeland Security officials, the Palm Beach Police Department saw its investigation stall, as prosecutors in Florida determined they did not have enough evidence to pursue charges against the alleged sender.
The police report suggests the suspect may have sent out hostile letters about Peerenboom after being fired from Peerenboom's company.
But Perlmutter claims that Peerenboom "was likely complicit -- or at least indifferent" to the hate mail because he was determined to blame it on Perlmutter and extract money from the Marvel CEO.
"Peerenboom and [the former Mandrake partner's] interests in framing the Perlmutters for the hate-mail campaign were perfectly aligned. [The former Mandrake partner] gathered information about the Perlmutters that were a matter of public record and dropped prominent breadcrumbs in the hate-mail letters that would point to the Perlmutters as the culprits. Peerenboom in turn gobbled them up," the Perlmutter filing alleges.