John Wright, a fellow reporter and outspoken, make that very outspoken, blogger in the mortgage mess has finally found fame for himself and his PiggyBankBlog.com but not in the way he probably wanted.
A tipster (send in your tips here) sent me in a copy of a lawsuit filed against John and others and then oddly, a link to a press release about the suit as well. From first glance it all looks like a first class pissing match over a broken business relationship.
John and I have had some spectacular public head butting ourselves in the comments on this site. I remember a time a year or so ago when I was getting pretty beaten up by him for reporting on some mass joinder issues. I certainly don’t blame John for his comments and aggressive approach and since then the lawyer he was vehemently trying to defend, Mitchell Stein was later arrested, raided and charged with a bunch of other stuff I’d rather not have to go over again. You can read past posts on Mitchell Stein here.
The lawsuit was allegedly filed in Michigan, by Fadie Hany Arney and National Mortgage Investigation against John Wright, PiggyBankBlog.com, Allana Baroni, Baroni Enterprises, Damian Kutzner, Brookstone Law, and Darrell Neilander. i say allegedly because the copy forwarded to me does not bear the court stamp.
National Mortgage Investigation then sent out a press release on the suit and stated:
Self-described “celebrity blogger” John Wright was sued in a Michigan court (Case No. 12‐005104‐CZ) to prevent further “shakedown” or “extortion” of money or property from National Mortgage Investigation (“NMI”). Furthermore, NMI alleges that Wright, owner of “piggybankblog,” engages in a practice of asking for donations on his website while secretly taking money from homeowners for “services.” Wright’s consulting practice is not disclosed on his blog.
In the legal action, NMI revealed dozens of emails from a network of individuals including Brookstone Law P.C.’s Damian Kutzner, television personality Allana Baroni and “piggybankblogger personality” Darrell Neilander referring to the owner of NMI, Mr. Fadie Areny, as being a “young punk,” a “scumbag,” a “stupid fool,” and other derogatory adjectives. Allegedly, they all promised to stop defaming him in public blogs if Mr. Areny or NMI paid Wright, Baroni, and Kutzner nearly $200,000.
All the defendants disseminated emails to NMI emphasizing that Wright and his co-conspirators Brookstone and Kutzner have close relationships with governmental officials, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The lawsuit claims Areny was told it would “not be good for NMI” if it failed to pay money to John Wright.
Commenting on the lawsuit, Areny remarked, “I have never before imagined that professionals could use derogatory terms like ‘punk’ and ‘scumbag’ while concurrently extorting ownership and money. We have no alternative but to seek and procure injunctive relief against these ‘shake-downs’ resulting from activities such as those employed by Wright, Baroni, and Brookstone Law P.C.” – Source
But the suit makes all sort of accusations which might not be worthy of a movie, but maybe a mid-season filler mini series if true.
Fadie Hany Areny is described by Wright as a 22 year old kid trying to make his way in the debt relief space with National Mortgage Investigation. In Areny’s complaint filed against Wright and other Arney alleges:
This action arises out of a series of extortive, threatening, harassing, bullying and nasty attacks on Plaintiffs by persons engaged in a shakedown conspiracy as a part of the mortgage crisis and for purposes (a) first of humiliation and pressure on Plaintiffs and (b) then to take over Plaintiffs’ successful nationwide business and receive as much money as possible in the meantime. These Defendants in this action are all alter egos, agents and co-conspirators of Defendant John Paul Wright who operates his business partially through a blog called “piggybankblog,” in which he openly practices his shakedowns of numerous people. All Defendants’ herein are the agents, alter egos, and co-conspirators of John Paul Wright and “piggybankblog” and have committed their unlawful acts with the approval and/or ratification of each other member of the Defendants’ enterprise. All Defendants are referred to hereinafter as the “Wright Group.”
But here were the suit crawls into consideration for the most bizarre lawsuit category when it includes statements such as:
- Mr. Neilander has harassed and abused Plaintiffs by referring to Mr. Areny as a “silly boy”
- …has referred to legitimate businessman Mr. Areny as a “scum bag,” a “stupid fool,” “stupid little punk kid” and a “dumb ass”.
- Stalking and repeatedly harassing Plaintiffs into paying what amounts to nothing but mafia type “protection” plan where Defendants have told Plaintiffs that Plaintiffs will not be “protected” unless they “cough up” the money and equity in NMI.
- Ms. Baroni made the representations that she was a partner of billionaires like Oprah Winfrey and others as an inducement to Mr. Areny to believe that Ms. Baroni and Baroni Enterprises had “Wall Street” money to invest in Mr. Areny’s business.
- Now is a good time to start believing in Jesus my brother.
- Just stop now. you are too dumb to be in business.
At the very least you have to give this suit a thumbs up for entertainment value.
The facts of the suit state National Mortgage Investigation hired John Wright. Brookstone Law allegedly wrote a letter confirming NMI’s business and services “were outside the purview of restricted activity in California.” Fadie Hany Areny also alleges Wright’s demands for payment and public postings over the crumbling of their business relationship were humiliating, emotional, coercive and physical. – Source
Prior to and after the suit was filed, Wright has been very vocal about the deteriorating relationship.
For his part, John Wright has been not shy at all about a chain of events that allegedly unfolded. John states the relationship with Arney originally began with Craig Covert.
John writes that Covert appeared to catch his attention with an email that included:
I saw your article on Mitchell Stein’s interview. It appears that we have some ammo for you guys that is mind blowing: our securities examinations show, in writing, how many pools a loan was sold into. We have documented proof that a client of ours had a loan that was sold into 19 different pools. I would love to post this stuff on your site as exhibits – it directly relates to your article. I am sitting on 3 B of A investigative reports right now – all SEC examined evidence. We now have exhibits for everything you write about.
Now John has a very distinct writing style and certainly does not hold back at all. He stated the relationship with Covert began to involve Fadie.
That business partners name would end up being Fadie Hany Areny. Craig Covert
neglected to tell me that his partner and owner of the company was some 22 year old kid
who had just gotten hair on his balls for the first time a few years previous. Neverthless, I
trusted Craig. That is why he set up a phone call on December 8th, 2011 with Fadie Hany
Areny and him. I noticed right away that he sounded really young. I could tell that he was
maybe 22 years old or something . Well — this sent off all sorts of alarms with me. – Source
It appears that John violated the cardinal rule of selling ads on his site, get the money in advance. This turned into a match of trying to get paid and then a steep slide downhill.
And from the emails in the exhibit to the suit it does appear John reinforces his payment for advertising role when he says, “I am like the telephone bill Fadie. I am not a salesman. That is your guys job. I am like the yellow pages who brings you leads with advertising. The yellow pages does not get paid based on what you bring in. They just advertise.”
“Then I end up getting an email hearing all the reason why you cannot do it such as “you only brought three in” as if I am a salesman. I don’t work that way. I thought I was clear about that. Ultimately it was not that I was not willing to wait – but that you waited to the last minute to tell me every single time. Then when I say I have bill – which you told me to send to you – in the same breath you say you have no money. Then you say to ramp up the advertising. Then at the end you suggest turning it off. Very confusing. But the advertising is not the problem Fadie – because I bring the people. It is once they get to your salesmen and product that there is a problem. So I do my job and it is not my job to sell it. That is your job.” – Source
There is some mention of compensation per cases but frankly without a roadmap here it all gets obtuse and then you lose interest.
Apparently the lawsuit press release angle was originally suggested by Wright in his alleged April 10th email to Fadie.
That approach isn’t so much fun when it gets used back.
For its part Brookstone Law offered up this public statement from Vito Torchia, Jr, Esq.
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the above referenced matter.
I have reviewed a copy of the alleged Complaint. Let me start off by quoting former President Ronald Reagan: “There you [Stein] go again!”
I know nothing about Michigan Law or what is alleged in the draft of the Complaint I have seen. So, beyond a few factual observations, I can’t comment on a lawsuit that supposedly was filed in Michigan under Michigan law. I don’t even know if what I have seen is the same as what may have been filed.
Brookstone and Damian have nothing to do with anyone in Michigan, or with Mr. Areny, outside the fact that he briefly retained a lawyer who also works with Brookstone regarding a matter in California.
Rather, it seems that Brookstone is being sued on the bizarre theory that if we know anyone in a dispute, we must have conspired to cause the dispute. If it were proper to sue lawyers every time a proposed or actual deal sours, then lawyers would be defendants in just about 100% of all lawsuits. To the contrary, knowing someone, or giving advice to a client who is involved in a dispute is not a basis for legal action – whether, as here, the advice was completely unrelated to the dispute, or, even if the advice is related to the dispute. To the best of my knowledge, that principle is enmeshed in state laws throughout the United States.
Even before anyone knew about this lawsuit, Eric Wittenberg, Mitchell Stein’s partner in the so-called Spire Law Group, sent emails to Brookstone clients and defendants in this lawsuit gleefully referencing the lawsuit. It is implausible that Wittenberg could have so quickly known about this lawsuit if he did not have a hand in it. Further, the draft complaint I have seen and the press release issued in support of the lawsuit includes verbatim the language and allegations Stein has used in other lawsuits he has filed since the California courts and State Bar seized his practice.
As it pertains to Brookstone and Damian, the lawsuit is just bizarre. The complaint and press release seem to be yet another in a long line of failed attacks launched by Stein and his associates. Just since his practice was seized in August 2011, Stein or his colleagues have launched five federal court actions, numerous State court motions and the Legaspi lawsuit in California attacking Brookstone and Damian for one imagined slight or another, usually wrapped around alleged dark conspiracies to hurt Stein and homeowners. Every one of these lawsuits has been dismissed (except only the last one, filed just a few weeks ago which undoubtedly will face the same demise in due course) and all of Stein’s motions making these attacks have failed.
It is all too easy to file a lawsuit or issue a press release. The attack, untrue or bizarre though it may be, garners a lot of attention and the eventual dismissal usually does not. Sadly the fact that the theories have no relation to the law doesn’t stop someone from filing a lawsuit.
I encourage you to obtain whatever was actually filed, read it and come to your own conclusions about whether it states any cause of action against Brookstone and Damian, or whether it seems like a petty school yard fight in which I could almost imagine one of the protagonists shouting: “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”
In short, Brookstone and Damian have nothing to do with Michigan or the war of roses depicted in the draft I read. Whether anything in the complaint is true is beyond my perspective. Whether anyone else, including the plaintiff, did anything that is legally actionable requires knowledge of the true facts and of Michigan law, both of which I lack. What I do know, is the draft I read makes no allegations that could remotely subject Brookstone or Damian to any liability to anyone.
I repeatedly asked John Wright for a public comment on this suit. As of the time of publication, none had been submitted for publication.
I just received the statement from John Wright to share. John says:
And Then It Gets Nasty - Personal Finance Blogger Sued By Unhappy Service Provider by Steve Rhode
The allegations listed in the Complaint National Mortgage Investigation has filed are absolutely delusional and false. The Complaint stated that Plaintiff was accusing the Defendants of “physically” following them in Michigan. The Complaint further alleged that the “Wright Group” used “GPS” to follow them in Michigan while using terms like “Cough up the money.” However, for the record, I myself have never been to Michigan. It is also important to mention that young 22 year old Fadie Hany Areny has been living with his mother in Tucson the entire time I that have known him. Certainly — this makes it “physically” impossible for any of us to have been following him around in Michigan – other than in his potential delusions. The rest of the claims were all just as ridiculous and absurd. For example, the Complaint alleges that all other people listed in it were part of the “Wright Group.” The Complaints described the “Wright Group.” Yet – several of the people listed in the Complaint did not even know that the other person existed until the lawsuit was filed.
Young 22 year old Fadie Hany Areny is a potentially disgruntled failing businessman at the age of 22 years old. Mr. Areny willing admitted in his emails to me his frustration of having no investment money for what might have appeared to be a failing company. That is why we all believe that Fadie Hany Areny is actually the one who is trying to extort all of us for investment money with his lawsuit. We also believe that he was trying to potentially extort us with his purely irresponsible and potentially liable press release that were meant to maybe do damage to our names.
Please read Mr. Areny’s potential extortion email to me dated April 14th, 2012:
“Oh and by the way- I’m looking forward to our story on Monday! It’s going to be interesting on how you are going to make up the story on how Craig is secretly behind everything and that he is using me as a “fall” guy. Man oh man that is going to be an interesting read. Nothing will be as interesting as the blog posting we are going to write on Tuesday though. You forget- I have the ability to spend more $ on marketing anything I want than you will ever have. Once again- underestimating me. You thought I was a kid, you thought. And you thought wrong. Wright is wrong again. (laughing) (wink wink).”
In addition, it is my opinion that the email cut and paste job by Mr. Areny was meant to grossly take things out of context to fit Mr. Areny’s potential agenda to maybe get investment money. Surely, these emails responses were to things that Fadie Hany Areny were saying to me. I was simply responding to his threats – which incidentally – Fadie Hany Areny conveniently left out of the complaint.
Furthermore, I have tracked and noticed a comment in the yahoo press release comment section that has words from a person who goes by the screen name (ss) These words are almost verbatim of what the words Mitchell J. Stein used with me in December of 2011. For example, the Yahoo comment stated: “Nobody threatened John Wright- nor will anyone threaten John Wright.” In December of 2011 this is what was said to me by Mitchell J. Stein: “John Wright does not threaten – nor does John Wright threaten.” There were also other similarities and matches. I also then pointed out to the (ss) screen name that their comment that we were all” criminals” were slanderous. For the record, Mitchell J. Stein has long known that I can track these kinds of comments. Instantly both comments from the (ss) character disappear into thin air. I believe that the words in these comments are potentially none other than Mitchell J. Stein because they were a potential exact match –or – should I say an exact “Mitch.”
In addition, the owner of National Mortgage Investigation apparently made good to his potential extortion threat with this lawsuit and press release he filed on April 17h, 2012.
We believe this was an attempt to:
- Punish me for giving a consumer warning and writing a story about it – such as I have routinely written things of this nature as a consumer advocate for nearly almost two years.
- Try and extort high profile people for investment money for his potentially failing company.
Please be advised that all the people listed in the complaint stand ready to pursue any and all legal remedies afforded by the law. This means we will be filing a lawsuit against “all” those involved in this potential extortion attempt of those listed in the complaint.
Therefore, for the record, we all categorically deny the potentially disgruntled allegations listed in this lawsuit. This is because the allegations are indeed unsubstantiated by the actual facts.
You may read more about the facts of this case here.