Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High-End Auction Fir,s Continue Their Dispute

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High-End Auction Fir,s Continue Their Dispute

Article excerpt

ONE SAYS IT WON: But Grand Estates firm says Concierge rival shouldn't celebrate yet

Concierge Auctions, the New York City company founded by former Sarasota real estate broker Chad Roffers, is celebrating a judge's decision in a lawsuit brought by one of its high-end auction competitors.

In a statement issued last week, Concierge claimed that the decision to dismiss most of the charges in the racketeering case "was a total victory for Concierge Auctions, which had maintained from the beginning that the lawsuit was a desperate attempt by a failing competitor to damage Concierge's hard-won reputation in the luxury real estate market."

"Grand Estates initiated this attack, hoping bad publicity would drive business from our company to theirs," Laura Brady, president of Concierge Auctions, said in the written statement. "It was an underhanded tactic, and it backfired."

But Val Devine, who owns Grand Estates Auction Co., believes top executives at Concierge Auctions are celebrating prematurely.

Though Concierge Auctions is no longer a defendant in the case, Brady and Concierge chief operating officer Michael Russo still face fraud charges.

U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl wrote in a March 10 opinion that the "plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that defendants Russo and Brady directed, caused, or at least aided and abetted multiple false statements to be made to specific sellers by use of wires."

"Apparently Brady and Russo are not aware that they are still defendants in the RICO case," Devine said in her own statement, referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. "The court made no determination as to the factual merits of the many claims of fraudulent conduct committed through Concierge Auctions, as the defendant RICO enterprise, and by its controlling officers, Brady and Russo. …

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