LOS ANGELES (CN) - Attorneys for NFL star Dwight Freeney "willfully blinded themselves" to indications that Freeney's business partners were defrauding him of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, the football player claims in court.
Freeney and his company, Roof Group LLC, sued the Bayard P.A. law firm and attorney Stephen Brauerman in Federal Court, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Freeney, a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
He claims in the lawsuit that the law firm's failure to recognize a scam by (nonparties) Eva Weinberg and Michael Stern cost him more than $1 million: "allowing, enabling and assisting Stern and Weinberg in continuing to carry out their scheme to defraud Mr. Freeney until their arrests by the FBI in March 2012."
Freeney met Weinberg around February 2010 when she was working in private banking at Bank of America-owned Merrill Lynch, according to the 50-page lawsuit. Freeney says he agreed to let Weinberg manage his financial affairs, including his personal finances, real estate investments and business dealings involving his Hollywood restaurant, Rolling Stone L.A. (RSLA). Weinberg left the bank several months later, allegedly to better manage Freeney's finances.
Weinberg introduced Freeney to her then-romantic partner, developer Michael Stern, but told Freeney his name was Michael Millar, according to the complaint. Weinberg falsely told Freeney that Stern was a wealthy businessman, had $30 million on deposit with Bank of America, owned a private jet, and was interested in investing $7 million in Freeney's restaurant, the complaint states.
In fact, Stern was in bankruptcy, with declared liabilities in excess of $65 million, had a bank account balance of negative $23,000, did not own a private jet, and had no intentions of investing in Rolling Stone L.A., Freeney says in the complaint.
Stern "was a notorious financial predator," whose intention was to take control of the restaurant, "use it as a vehicle for one of his schemes, and drain it of its value," according to the complaint.
Stern formed Arm's Reach Consulting, a front company with no employees or assets, then assumed the role of Freeney's "protector, mentor and friend. Among other things, he promised to invest $7.0 million in RSLA; offered Mr. Freeney the use of his private jet; and volunteered to oversee the RSLA build out," Freeney claims.
Meanwhile, Weinberg opened a bank account at Bank of America in the name of Freeney's company, Roof Group, and bank accounts in Freeney's name at a Citibank branch in Florida, according to the complaint.
"Between June 2010 and October 2011 Weinberg and Stern transferred over $9.0 million of Mr. Freeney's money from the Citibank accounts into the BOA Roof Group account. Mr. Freeney was not aware of this extraordinary account activity; during most of this time period, he did not even know that the BOA Roof Group account was still active," according to the complaint.
During that time, the pair wired $2.2 million in nearly 140 transactions from Freeney's Roof Group account to Stern's front company, the complaint states.
"Stern and Weinberg relied on the spending activity associated with the RSLA restaurant as both a justification for the volume of spending activity in Mr. Freeney's bank accounts and a means of disguising the illicit transactions," Freeney says in the lawsuit.