Aventura commercial litigator Tony Andre of the Andre Law Firm filed to register a foreign judgment in the Southern District of Florida against Lev Parnas, a Boca Raton resident and major Republican Party donor.
Parnas had borrowed $350,000 from an investor to help develop a movie project that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The 2011 case began in the Eastern District of New York and closed five years later, but the plaintiff has struggled to get Parnas to pay the judgment. The Pues Family Trust IRA and its executor Michael Pues brought the suit, accusing Parnas and his holding company of fraud and breach of contract.
According to the complaint, Parnas used the loan as part of a $500,000 investment in the development of a film called “Anatomy of an Assassin.” Parnas had an agreement with the California company making the film, Koala Productions Ltd., that would have landed him 10 percent of the proceeds, according to court filings.
Hollywood producer Rudy Durand was producing the film, starring actor Jack Nicholson, according to the plaintiff’s New York lawyer Robert J. Hantman of Hantman & Associates.
But according to the complaint, Parnas struggled to pay Koala Productions what he’d promised to invest because he was going through a divorce at the time, and the IRS had temporarily frozen his assets.
The project flopped and Parnas never repaid Pues or delivered the favorable returns he’d promised. The lawsuit called it a “deliberate, coercive and well-orchestrated scheme,” but Parnas claimed he had no obligation to repay the money as it was an investment, not a loan.
At the bench trial, Hantman argued otherwise.
“A lot of people get screwed on these films,” Hantman said. “Parnas started advertising that he was interested in the movie and got money from other people, but he didn’t take all that money and put it into the movie.”
Counsel to Parnas, Richard L. Yellen in New York, did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.
While the fraud allegations against Parnas were dismissed, the breach of contract claim stuck. U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt awarded the plaintiff $350,000, which became $510,434.70 with interest and costs.
Parnas is also a defendant in another lawsuit brought by Campaign Legal Center, a Washington nonprofit that accuses him, business partner Igor Fruman and Global Energy Producers LLC of violating campaign finance laws with a $325,000 donation to pro-Trump, super-PAC America First Action Inc.
Pues hired Andre in 2017 to chase Parnas down for the judgment money. Andre first took the case to Palm Beach County Court and issued a subpoena to Global Energy Producers for documentation of its capital, but he said they never responded.
“They’ve kind of dragged their feet a little bit,” Andre said. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to register the judgment in the Southern District, as we feel that they will take it a little bit more seriously if it’s coming from the federal court.”
It’s not unusual for people to avoid paying judgments, according to Andre, who pointed out, ”That’s why people like me exist.” But his client is upset by the whole thing, Andre said, particularly due the tax penalties that racked up when Parnas didn’t pay on time.
“This is a significant amount of money to him and he feels that Parnas has just been kind of fast and loose with the whole thing, not giving it the attention that someone in Mr. Pues’ position would likely deserve,” Andre said.
U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks will oversee the litigation in Florida.
Read the judgment against Parnas: [falcon-embed src="embed_1"]