Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Frank Meram, et al v. Citizens Title and Trust

March 31, 2011

FRANK MERAM, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITIZENS TITLE AND TRUST, INC., ET
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Louisa S. Porter United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS [doc. #26] and DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT

Plaintiffs filed this action on July 2, 2010. On January 3, 2011, the Court granted defendant Citizens Title and Trust, Inc.'s motion to dismiss plaintiffs' federal securities litigation claims and aiding and abetting fraud claim. Plaintiffs were granted leave to file an amended complaint within ten days of the filing of this Order. They did not do so. Because plaintiffs failed to file a timely amended complaint, defendant were required to answer or otherwise respond to plaintiffs' state law claims within the time provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants timely filed the present motion to dismiss or in the alternative to transfer venue the state law claims remaining in this action but plaintiffs have not opposed defendants' motion. The Court notes that plaintiffs were required under Civil Local Rule 7.1(e)(2) to file their opposition by March 14, 2011 but have not done so. Civil Local Rule 7.1(f)(3)(c) provides:

If an opposing party fails to file the papers in the manner required by Civil Loal Rule 7.1.e.2 that failure may constitute a consent to the granting of a motion or other request for ruling by the court.

The Court nevertheless reviews defendant's motion to dismiss to determine if there is any basis for denying the motion.

Background

In their complaint, plaintiffs allege that two non-parties to this action, Bradley Holcom and Jose Pinedo ("Holcom and Pinedo" or "nonparties"), were the "masterminds behind a Ponzi scheme that allowed them to bilk victims out of tens of millions of dollars." (Compl. at 2.) According to plaintiffs, these two scallywags would not have been successful but for the role defendant Citizens Title, an Arizona escrow company, played in the scheme.*fn1

Holcom and Pinedo allegedly told plaintiffs that they were able to provide a 10-14% per year rate of return on investments. The individual plaintiffs made monetary investments that would permit Holcom and Pinedo to purchase real property in Arizona for which the investor would take an interest in the promissory note and deed of trust as security for the principal investment. Plaintiffs contend that Holcom and Pinedo purchased properties with plaintiffs' moneys but rather than providing the investors with security interests in the properties, plaintiffs received an investment contract entitled "Collateral Assignment of Beneficial Interest" ("CABI") which plaintiffs contend is a security within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 78c.

Plaintiffs brought an action against Holcom and Pinedo and others in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of San Diego in an effort to recoup their money. Default judgment was entered against Holcom and Pinedo, with a finding of fraud, in the amount of $6,495,402.00. According to plaintiffs, Holcom and Pinedo have absconded with all of plaintiffs' investment moneys.

In the present complaint, plaintiffs assert that defendant was involved in Holcom and Pinedo's Ponzi scheme by opening escrow accounts and acting as escrow holder: "With knowledge of the structure of the transaction, Defendant[] would receive Plaintiffs' investments and process the sham transaction to give the appearance that a legitimate transfer of real property had taken place." (Compl. at 30, ¶ 38(f).) Plaintiffs also allege that defendant "would then execute and deliver promissory notes and deeds of trust naming themselves as trustee, and nonparty entities as beneficiaries . . . [but] said note and deed of trust represented Plaintiffs' Principal Investments." (Compl. at 30, ¶ 38(h).)

The real property, which had been purchased with plaintiffs' principal investments but owned by the nonparties or their entities, subsequently would be sold to innocent third parties. Defendant would open escrow and provide typical escrow company services. (Compl. at ¶ 39.) At the close of escrow, defendant would remit the pay off for the loans to the nonparties "with the knowledge that said funds were actually derived from Plaintiffs." (Compl. at 30, ¶ 39(c).) Plaintiffs contend defendant knew Holcom and Pinedo intended to defraud plaintiffs and that it actively participated in the entirety of the fraudulent scheme.

Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' State Law Claims

After dismissal of plaintiffs' federal claims, the remaining causes of action against Citizen Title include Fraud/Deceit; Negligent Misrepresentation; Conspiracy to Commit Fraud; Neligence; Conversion and Elder Abuse under California's Welfare and Inst. Code § 15657.5.

A complaint cannot survive a motion to dismiss unless it provides "sufficient factual matter, . . . to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal 129 S. Ct 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint must contain "more than labels of conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A plaintiff must allege "enough facts" to "nudge[] [the] claim[s] across the line from conceivable to plausible. Id. at 570.

Under the heightened pleading requirement for claims of fraud under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), "a party must state with particularity ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.