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Muho v. Citibank N.A.

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 7, 2015

GERTI MUHO, Plaintiff,
v.
CITIBANK N.A., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND Re: Dkt. No. 9

YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Gerti Muho ("Muho") filed his complaint on June 10, 2014 in California Superior Court, Alameda County, asserting causes of action for: (1) breach of contract; (2) conversion; (3) trespass to chattels; (4) interference with economic relations; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A ("Complaint").) On July 16, 2014, defendant Citibank N.A. ("Citibank") filed a notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Dkt. No. 1.) The Court has diversity jurisdiction over the dispute pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a)(1) and 1348. ( See Dkt. No. 1.) This lawsuit relates to Citibank's refusal to allow plaintiff to withdraw funds from his account.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Citibank moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that each cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Dkt. No. 9 ("Mot.").) Muho opposes the motion. (Dkt. No. 24 ("Oppo.").)

Having carefully considered the papers submitted and the complaint, and for the reasons stated herein, the Court hereby GRANTS Citibank's Motion to Dismiss WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

I. BACKGROUND

The complaint is not a model of clarity. Nevertheless, the Court reads the complaint's allegations as generally relating to Citibank's decision to deny plaintiff access to the funds in his deposit account starting in August 2013.

Citibank claims it did so first as a result of suspected fraud or illegal activity[1] and later pursuant to court orders in a case that resulted in a $2 million default judgment entered against Muho in the Southern District of New York. (Mot. at 1.)[2] The complaint in the New York action described Muho as "a disgruntled former business associate and director" who "illegal[ly] transfer[red]... over $2, 000, 000 from the Funds' bank account for his own benefit." (RJN, Ex. A at 1.)[3]

By contrast, the complaint alleges Citibank "denied Plaintiff access to his own deposits, left Plaintiff moneyless, stole Plaintiff's funds, sent Plaintiff chasing ways to close his account, humiliated Plaintiff's person and his trade, repeatedly, ... left Plaintiff stranded and in physical danger[, ]... breached its agreement with Plaintiff, robbed Plaintiff's possessions, including his opportunities, and ended Plaintiff's pursuit of the dirtiest players in finance: Citco, FAM, and JP Morgan, and ended or seriously bruised Plaintiff [ sic ] stellar career and trade." (Complaint ¶ 11.)[4]

By way of background, Muho opened a deposit account with Citibank in 2009 at its Berkeley, California branch. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff used his Citibank account without incident until August 2013, when the bank terminated plaintiff's access. ( Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

Muho, who previously attended law school at Boalt, is registered as an investment advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Complaint ¶¶ 5, 12.) In August 2012, he began managing a group of unidentified investment funds with about $300 million in private assets under management. ( Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) A few months later, he learned that the funds' former managers, Fletcher Asset Management, Inc. ("FAM") and Citco Group, Ltd. ("Citco") "may have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in assets from Plaintiff's investment funds." ( Id. ¶ 6.) Muho instituted an internal review that "delivered overwhelming evidence of the wrongful taking by FAM and Citco of millions of assets [ sic ] from" the funds. ( Id. ¶ 8.) In July 2013, he filed a lawsuit against FAM and Citco in this District seeking $200 million in damages. ( Id. ¶ 9.)[5]

Around August 19, 2013, Citibank refused for the first time to allow plaintiff to access his account, which held approximately $40, 000. ( Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Citibank's customer service department informed plaintiff the bank would continue blocking his account until he contacted a purported bank employee, Ivona Sinovic. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) He eventually reached her at the number provided. ( Id. ¶ 22.) She told him that she did not know the specific issue with his account and that she would have the "back office" contact him. ( Id. ) Muho never heard from the "back office" and his future calls to Sinovic went unanswered. ( Id. ¶ 23.) He subsequently visited a Miami branch where he was initially told he could close his account and withdraw his funds. ( Id. ¶ 24.) Before he was permitted to do so, however, he was informed that "very important people, very high up at Citibank" had placed a hold on his account. ( Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)

On September 3, 2013, plaintiff emailed Citibank, obliquely addressing his lawsuit against FAM and Citco, "rumors" started by FAM and Citco that plaintiff had stolen from his investment funds, and his need to access the funds in his account in order to a pay a court filing fee. ( Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) Plaintiff visited his home branch in Berkeley the next day and was thrown out. ( Id. ¶ 30.) On September 10, 2013, plaintiff learned that Citibank had reversed certain recent payments he had made from his Citibank account, basing the move on the "outrageous lie" that the payments had been made with "fake checks." ( Id. ¶ 32-33.) Plaintiff paid more than a dozen visits to various branches; each time, he was "thrown out like a common criminal." ( Id. ¶ 34.)

On September 27, 2013, FAM and Citco sued plaintiff and a related entity in the Southern District of New York, alleging he had stolen approximately $2 million from the investment funds he had purportedly managed. ( Id. ¶ 35; RJN, Ex. A.) On October 16, 2013, that court issued a temporary restraining order, enjoining Citibank from permitting withdrawals by Muho. (RJN, Ex. C at 3.) On October 25, 2013, the court issued an order of attachment directed at any of Muho's Citibank accounts (among other sources) to secure the sum at issue. (RJN, Ex. D.) A default judgment was ultimately entered against him for more than $2 million on April 4, 2014. (RJN, Ex. B.)

Plaintiff now seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages from Citibank, alleging Citibank's refusal to permit him to withdraw $40, 000 from his account prevented him from ...


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