HOUSTON (CN) - The owner of Amigo Adventures tour company claims an attorney he hired to stop a condo development next to his property in Mexico took $800,000 in legal fees from him, with no result, then won a $42 million judgment against him in a phony Mexican arbitration proceeding.
Jon Shirley and his company Amigo Adventures sued Eric Coufal Diaz Garcia and his company Ajijic Investments, in Federal Court.
Defendant Coufal is an Austrian citizen who lives in Guadalajara and Houston, according to the complaint.
Shirley says in his 35-page complaint: "In April 2004, Amigo acquired certain residential property and a home on the Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags), in the State of Nayarit, Mexico ... Because of the location of the home, and applicable provisions of Mexican law, the home cannot be owned by a foreign person or controlled or entity directly."
After its revolution of 1910-17, Mexico, jealous of centuries of interference from its northern neighbor, strictly limited foreigner's ability to own land, particularly near the coasts. Misunderstandings about Mexican law, and its judicial system, have led to repeated lawsuits over the years from U.S. citizens who thought they were buying land in Mexico, or leasing it on long terms.
Amigo says its home is owned by Mexican bank trustee Banco Mercantil del Norte. "In 2006, a third-party developer began constructing a 7-story condominium project immediately adjacent to the home," according to the complaint. "The construction of the condominium project included drilling tiebacks underneath the home without permission or easement rights, and excavation work that undermined the foundation and adjacent support for the home. As a result of these activities, the home was damaged."
Amigo says it hired Eric Coufal Diaz Garcia in November 2008 to get an injunction to stop the condo project.
Amigo says Coufal represented himself as licensed to practice law in New York, and a "regular practitioner of law in New York and Texas," but says it learned later that "Coufal is not licensed to practice law in either New York or Texas."
The complaint states: "Beginning in December 2008, and pursuant to the original agreement, Coufal instituted a number of judicial and administrative proceedings on behalf of the trustee for the home in Mexico against the neighboring condominium development and various government agencies. ... Amigo's trustee issued a limited power of attorney to Coufal to prosecute the Mexican proceedings."
Amigo claims that without saying a word to it, Coufal entered into a services agreement, allegedly on its behalf, to hire Mexican attorney Jose Campirano Marin to help with the litigation.
Campirano is not a party to this complaint.
"The Services Agreement is a direct violation of the original agreement between Coufal and Amigo," Shirley says. "The original agreement between Coufal and Amigo expressly provided that any associate attorneys used by Coufal were to be retained at Coufal's expense but this new services agreement purported to make Amigo directly responsible for payments to Marin and others.
"Coufal did not inform Amigo or Shirley of the services agreement or obtain the approval or Amigo or Shirley to enter into the services agreement on Shirley's behalf. Coufal's limited power of attorney from Amigo's trustee did not authorize him to enter into contracts requiring the trustee, Amigo, or Shirley to separately pay for such services."