MIAMI, Fla. – In a case of an international dog-breeding partnership gone wrong, a judge has ordered one partner to pay the other almost $400,000 in damages for fraud and civil theft, after striking the partner’s pleadings for an attempt to commit fraud on the Court, as uncovered by attorneys Glen Waldman and Michael Azre from Waldman Barnett.
The victim, Lino Calvo, is a retired and decorated Miami police officer. After starting his own kennel, Von Calvo German Shepherds, Mr. Calvo partnered with another Miami-area breeder to import world-class German Shepherds from Germany to breed with dogs in the U.S. Unbeknownst to Mr. Calvo, the partner had contrived a scheme to trick him into paying the full price for each of the dogs, while claiming to have paid a one-half share of the total cost for each one.
Pure-bred championship German Shepherds like the ones that the partners imported from Germany can cost as much as $200,000. The partner reaped half of the profits from the stud operation he and Mr. Calvo established and took half-ownership of each dog, while deceiving Mr. Calvo as to his contributions to the business.
When a German broker who assisted the partners in acquiring some of the dogs ultimately revealed the true cost of the animals to Mr. Calvo, he engaged Waldman Barnett and filed suit. Almost immediately after he received a copy of the complaint, Mr. Calvo’s partner contacted the broker to discourage him from getting involved in the case. Soon the partner offered the broker hush money in an attempt to protect his side of the story. When that failed, he threatened to report the broker to the German tax authorities. Central to the case were text messages, which Waldman Barnett was able to uncover, that Mr. Calvo’s partner sent the broker in Germany.
Based on a review of these text messages, Waldman and Azre put into place a strategy to have the court hold the partner accountable for his attempts to use bribery and extortion to interfere with the broker’s testimony. After securing damaging admissions from the partner at his own deposition, Waldman and Azre deposed the broker at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany about the partner’s wrongdoing. Relying on this testimony and text messages from the broker and Mr. Calvo’s partner, Waldman Barnett compiled a motion to strike the partner’s pleadings, asking the court to determine that the partner’s foul play with this crucial witness amounted to an admission that he had done the wrongs that Mr. Calvo had alleged against him.
As reported by Law360, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge E. Cueto determined that the evidence presented by Waldman Barnett justified the exceedingly rare and “severest of sanctions” against a litigant. Judge Cueto struck the partner’s pleadings, deeming the partner to have admitted all of the allegations against him, and awarded Mr. Calvo damages. An award of attorneys’ fees and costs, which the Court will determine after a motion pursuant to Florida’s civil theft statute, will likely increase Mr. Calvo’s award by more than $200,000.
“The evidence in this case was of a quality and character that led the court to be bold and do the right thing,” Waldman said. “Even when litigants behave badly, courts usually prefer to allow the case to go to trial. So, we were very pleased to secure a rare ruling granting judgment in our client’s favor without one. It’s never a good idea to cheat a business partner and certainly not a good idea to attempt to bribe and blackmail critical witnesses while leaving a trail of text messages.”