WARREN - Attorneys for the three men accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to ruin a restaurant in downtown Warren say the allegations are ''preposterous,'' and they intend to aggressively defend against the claims.
''It's a stupid and silly lawsuit,'' said attorney Martin F. White, who represents Bob Cregar.
Ken Haidaris, owner of The Sunrise Inn, claims the men conspired against his restaurant.
''Those allegations, I can't come up with a better word than preposterous,'' said attorney Gil Blair, whose client is Joe Sankey Jr., another defendant in the lawsuit filed in March.
The most serious of the allegations in the complaint filed by attorney Richard Goodman are claims made under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and Ohio's Corrupt Practices Act. They allege that Cregar, Sankey and LaShawn Ziegler engaged in a pattern of activity to wreck the Sunrise Inn and cost it a large amount of money.
It also claims that money from the Sunset Lounge - managed by Ziegler's company, Dream Team Promotions, in a building Sankey owns across the street from Sunrise Inn - was redirected to Cregar's bail bonding business and other businesses he owns.
The lawsuit asks for as much as $3.7 million in damages and to dissolve businesses owned by Cregar, Dream Team Promotions and Blue Magoo's Ventures LLC, which is Sankey's company that did business at the former Sunset Lounge, 480 E. Market St.
The lawsuit also seeks permanent revocation of Blue Magoo's liquor license.
Goodman said he believes the lawsuit is founded in fact based on the information he gathered, but declined further comment.
''We don't engage in litigating cases in the media, we litigate cases in the court of law,'' Goodman said.
White, who in a recent interview also used the word ''preposterous'' several times to describe the lawsuit, said the allegations against Cregar are untrue, and that his client has no business interest in the Sunset Lounge and ''derived no financial benefit'' from the now-closed bar.
''They might as well add a count that they are interfering with radio waves coming from Martians,'' White said. ''It's preposterous.''
White explained the relationship between Cregar, Sankey and Ziegler as follows:
White said Cregar's lease with Ziegler for 156 Elm was signed in July 2011, before the Sunset Lounge existed, and the terms changed to a land contract in February.
White said Cregar is trying to distance himself from Ziegler. White said Cregar chose not to sever ties with Ziegler immediately because ''the guy (Ziegler) makes his payments, so he (Cregar) holds a mortgage on LaShawn Ziegler property by virtue of the land contract.''
Ziegler listed 156 Elm as the headquarters for Dream Team Promotions, which documents show was part of the Sunset Lounge operation in Sankey's building. The Elm Road house was also the scene of what was described as a major gun battle in the street in November in which a known drug dealer was shot to death and another man wounded.
Court records show White has answered the Sunrise Inn complaint. Blair said he would soon do the same for Sankey.
''The important thing we are talking about is that establishment was opened and running as Sunset Lounge for about a six- to eight-month period of time. I don't know of any damages suffered by the plaintiff. In fact, I'm pretty certain there were on the other side,'' Blair said. ''I think it's a bunch of smoke, mirrors and speculation.''
Sarah Kovoor, who represents Ziegler, also said the lawsuit against him is ''preposterous'' and ''silly,'' and she is going to proceed with trying to have Ziegler removed from the suit. Kovoor also called the damages being sought ''ludicrous.''