National Football League player Dwight Freeney can proceed with his lawsuit alleging that Bank of America Corp. was complicit in a fraud scheme that caused him to lose more than $20 million and forced his Rolling Stone restaurant to close.
The Arizona Cardinals linebacker last Thursday defeated a bid by the parent company and its Merrill Lynch unit to dismiss, among others, fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims stemming from the bank’s recruitment of him in 2010 to manage his assets.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow in Los Angeles didn’t rule on the merits of Freeney’s claims but agreed that he alleged enough facts to move forward with the case.
The judge granted the bank’s request to throw out Freeney’s racketeering allegations and almost all claims against the retail bank, Bank of America NA.
Freeney, 35, who was with the Indianapolis Colts when the team won the Super Bowl in 2006, claims that the head of his advisory team at the bank arranged for Eva Weinberg, a former bank employee who was also the banker’s ex-wife, to be Freeney’s principal liaison with the bank.
Bank of America also referred Freeney to Weinberg’s “paramour” Michael Stern, who was using a fake name, for financial advice, knowing that he already had a lengthy track record of real estate fraud, bribing public officials, forgery and theft, according to the complaint filed in California state court in March.
Stern and Weinberg were charged in 2012 by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles with fraud and other offenses. After reaching plea agreements, Stern was sentenced to five years in prison, while Weinberg got six months.
Bank of America has said it had nothing to do with Stern’s and Weinberg’s criminal scheme. Bill Halldin, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank, declined to comment on Thursday’s ruling.
Freeney, a veteran out of Syracuse University, in 2007 became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, signing a $72 million contract extension that included a $30 million signing bonus, according to ESPN.
The case is Freeney v. Bank of America Corp., 15-cv-02376, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles)
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