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Suburban Buick, Inc. v. Gargo

May 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge

Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Plaintiff Suburban Buick, Inc. has brought a six-count complaint against defendants Jerry D. Gargo ("J. Gargo"); his wife, Gail A. Gargo ("G. Gargo"); their sons, Nicholas G. ("N. Gargo") and Daniel J. Gargo ("D. Gargo" and together with N. Gargo, "the Gargo Sons"); Charles N. Owen ("Owen"); Owen's company, Chuck Owen Auto Body, Inc. ("COAB"); David C. Mormon ("Mormon"); Mormon's company, Dave's Auto Body; Greg S. Melvin ("Melvin"); Katherine Pollack ("Pollack"); Rosemary Young ("Young"); and two companies started by Jerry Gargo, Gargo Custom Homes and GO Service.*fn1 Plaintiff originally filed a verified complaint on January 17, 2008. On July 30, 2008, plaintiff sought and was granted leave of the court to file a first amended verified complaint. The first amended complaint (the "complaint") was filed on August 29, 2008.

The complaint: alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1964, based on wire fraud (Count I), mail fraud (Count II), and money laundering (Count III); seeks injunctive relief to restrict defendants from disposing or selling certain assets (Count IV); and asserts claims for conversion (Count V) and civil conspiracy (Count VI). All of the counts are based on alleged intentional fraudulent conduct by defendants. The Court's jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1964 and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Several of the defendants have filed motions to dismiss the first amended verified complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) for failure to plead allegations of fraud with particularity, and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons explained below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.


The complaint alleges that the various defendants conspired to defraud Suburban Buick, a General Motors car dealership located in Wheaton, Illinois, of money and the honest value of its employees' services, with defendant Jerry Gargo serving as the central figure in all branches of the conspiracy. Jerry Gargo was a manager and/or officer of Suburban Buick. Nicholas and Daniel Gargo were unauthorized employees of Suburban Buick, hired by their father, Jerry Gargo. Daniel Gargo was a manager of Suburban Buick. Charles Owen is the owner and principal operator of Chuck Owen Auto Body, Inc., a company that he allegedly used in furtherance of the purported conspiracy. David Mormon owns and operates Dave's Auto Body, another defendant, which was also allegedly used in furtherance of the purported conspiracy.

Mormon was previously a Suburban Buick employee. Greg Melvin served as the parts department manager of Suburban Buick. Katherine Pollack was Suburban Buick's office manager and treasurer and Rosemary Young was her assistant. Gargo Custom Homes is an entity through which the owners, Defendants Jerry and his wife, Gail Gargo, allegedly invested funds defrauded from Suburban Buick. GO Services is an entity that was allegedly organized by Jerry Gargo to facilitate the conspiracy.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants conspired to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity by operating three kinds of scams through Suburban Buick; the defendant entities, Chuck Owen Auto Body, Dave's Auto Body, GO Services; and a non-party, Auto Service South, with J. Gargo functioning as the central figure in the conspiracy. The alleged scams are: (1) an auto body repair scam, (2) an auto parts scam, and (3) an unauthorized pay and salary scam.

Auto Body Repair Scam

With respect to the auto body repair scam, plaintiff alleges that defendants J. Gargo and Owen entered into an illegal agreement to defraud Suburban Buick of funds by falsifying work orders. To accomplish this task, J. Gargo and Owen created false work orders for General Motors vehicles still under warranty. The work orders identified vehicles for which repair work was neither necessary nor actually obtained. The "repair work" was outsourced to Owen's company, Chuck Owen Auto Body. Owen would then create a repair order on his company's letterhead and mail the order to Suburban Buick for payment. Ultimately, Owen received payment from Suburban Buick based upon these invoices.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that Owen sent a pre-determined amount of money (about fifty percent) from these payments to GO Service, a company owned by J. Gargo. J. Gargo and Owen purportedly met on a monthly basis in furtherance of this scam.

Auto Parts Scam

With respect to the auto parts scam, plaintiff alleges that defendants Greg Melvin and J. Gargo converted auto parts acquired with Suburban Buick funds. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Melvin, J. Gargo, and Owen operated a scheme whereby Owen would purchase auto parts from Suburban Buick through J. Gargo and Melvin at fifty percent of Suburban Buick's cost for the part. In furtherance of the scheme, Owen would telephone J. Gargo with a request for a specific auto part. J. Gargo redirected all such calls to Melvin, who, as parts department manager, would order the requested part using Suburban Buick's funds. Upon receipt of the parts, Melvin removed them from Suburban Buick's inventory and manipulated inventory records to conceal their theft. Melvin, together with J. Gargo, then sold the parts to Owen and split the proceeds from these sales. Owen then sold the parts, which he knew to be stolen goods, to his customers at full retail price, thus enriching himself. Plaintiff also alleges that Melvin and J. Gargo sold David Mormon, a former Suburban Buick mechanic, transmissions for less than the amount Suburban Buick would usually charge its retail customers.*fn3

Unauthorized Pay and Salary Scam

Plaintiff alleges that defendants J. Gargo, the Gargo Sons, Greg Melvin, Pollack, and Young conspired to defraud Suburban Buick through an unauthorized pay and salary scheme.

Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendants J. Gargo (as general manager), Pollack (as office manager and treasurer), and Young (as Pollack's assistant) used their authority and positions to provide unauthorized pay increases and other compensation to themselves, the Gargo Sons, and Melvin, without approval of Suburban Buick's board of directors. Jerry Gargo, Pollack, and Young had the authority to act as signatories on Suburban Buick's checks. Under Suburban Buick's policy, all three were signatories on direct deposit payroll checks. The complaint identifies at least ten occasions on which defendants gave and/or received unauthorized compensation from the fall of 2003 through the summer of 2004. Plaintiff also alleges that J. Gargo hired his sons, Daniel and Nicholas, without plaintiff's authorization.


Defendants, Greg Melvin, Charles Owen, and COAB have moved to dismiss under Rules 9(b) and 12(b)(6), arguing that the complaint: 1) fails to allege with particularity defendants' misconduct in Counts I (RICO Wire Fraud), II (RICO Mail Fraud), III (RICO Money Laundering), V (Conversion), and VI (Civil Conspiracy); 2) fails to allege with particularity that Suburban Bank is the defrauded and damaged party in Counts I, II, III, V, and VI; 3) fails to satisfy the elements for a RICO claim and, thus, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in Counts I, II, and III; and 4) fails to state a claim for injunctive relief in Count IV. For the reasons discussed below, their motions are granted.

Defendants, J. Gargo, G. Gargo, and the Gargo Sons broadly seek dismissal on Rule 9(b) and 12(b)(6) grounds. G. Gargo and the Gargo Sons note that the complaint fails to allege any wrongdoing on their part with particularity. For the reasons discussed below, the court agrees and these motions are granted.

Defendants Pollack and Young seek 12(b)(6) dismissal of all counts on grounds that the allegations are "unclear," "contradictory and patently false" in comparison to police reports they attach to their motion to dismiss.*fn4 They also argue that plaintiff fails to allege that they actively participated in or had the requisite knowledge about the alleged fraudulent schemes; they simply performed their duties as Suburban Buick employees. For the reasons discussed below, the court denies Pollack and Young's joint motion to dismiss.


I. LEGAL ...

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