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Spat for Custody of Piano Signed by Tony Bennett

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Steinway piano dealer refuses to turn over the mint 1916 model signed by Tony Bennett that was supposed to be auctioned for charity, the Amy Winehouse Foundation claims in court.

After Winehouse's death from alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 in July 2011, the Amy Winehouse Foundation began in England and Wales "to support and empower children and young adults in need through music therapy and music education."

The lawsuit filed Wednesday notes that it "works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people."

Its dispute over the so-called Tony Bennett piano stems from an agreement that the foundation allegedly reached in January 2013 with Ronen Segev and three businesses he controls, Park Avenue Pianos, Fermata Music Inc. and Ten O'Clock Classics Inc.

Segev allegedly agreed to donate, "at cost, two Steinway grand pianos," and the foundation arranged for Billy Joel to sign one piano and for Tony Bennett to sign the other.

The foundation noted in a footnote that the Billy Joel piano was successfully auctioned "and is not a subject of this lawsuit."

Though the Tony Bennett piano was auctioned at the foundation's 2013 Inspiration Awards and Gala that March, that winning bidder "subsequently was unable to make payment on or set delivery of the Tony Bennett piano," according to the complaint.

Bennett had allegedly signed the fallboard of the piano, a Golden Age mint condition 1916 Steinway Grand Model M.

He did so with the "sole intent that the proceeds from the sale of the piano would benefit AWF," the foundation said, abbreviating its name.

Park Avenue Pianos allegedly issued the foundation a bill of sale on May 3 for the two pianos, each which it valued at $20,000. The Tony Bennett piano also came with a delivery charge of $1,000, while the delivery charge for the Billy Joel piano was $500, according to the complaint.

AWF said it wired $41,500 to Fermata's bank account three days later, on May 6.

Since the foundation had paid for the Tony Bennett piano, it requested delivery of the piano on June 13 when the auction sale fell through.

"Upon information and belief, the Tony Bennett Piano has been and continues to be within Segev or defendants' possession, custody, or control," the complaint states. "Despite repeated demands for Segev to relinquish the Tony Bennett piano, Segev refuses to turn over the Tony Bennett piano to AWF.

"Indeed, Segev has threatened to sell or otherwise attempt to dispose of the Tony Bennett piano, despite that it is AWF's property."

The foundation seeks immediate possession of the piano. It alleges replevin, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

C. Neil Gray with Reed Smith represents the foundation.

Park Avenue Pianos has not returned a request for comment left after business hours Thursday.

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