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Safa v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 11, 2014

IMAD SAFA, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTIONS TO DISMISS CIVIL RICO CLAIMS

TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This civil rights lawsuit involves a number of causes of action sounding in federal and state law arising out of an arrest, forfeiture, and criminal proceedings against Plaintiffs. Presently, for case management reasons, the Court addresses the Motions to Dismiss filed by all Defendants only to the extent that they address Plaintiffs' civil RICO and conspiracy to commit civil RICO claims (collectively, the "RICO claims"). The Court will dismiss with prejudice Plaintiffs' RICO claims against the City of Philadelphia and will dismiss, without prejudice, Plaintiffs' RICO claims against all remaining Defendants.

II. Background

In their Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that various jewelry wholesalers ("wholesalers") conspired with Philadelphia police officers - in particular, Defendant Frank Straup - to extort money and property from Plaintiffs to pay off an alleged debt owed by Plaintiffs' father. Plaintiffs allege the following Counts: malicious prosecution under § 1983 (Count I), malicious prosecution under state law (Count II), unlawful arrest under § 1983 (Count III), false imprisonment and unlawful arrest under state law (Count IV), unjustified search and seizure under § 1983 (Count V), conspiracy under § 1983 (Count VI), conspiracy as to criminal charges under state law (Count VII), conspiracy as to civil cases (Count VIII), abuse of process (Count IX), tortious interference with business relationships (Count X), tortious interference with prospective business relations (Count XI), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count XII), a Monell claim under § 1983 (Count VIII), civil RICO (Count XIV), conspiracy to commit civil RICO (Count XV), assault and battery (XVI), violation of the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (Count XVII), and conversion (Count XVIII). On August 26, 2013, Defendants removed the case to this Court. ECF 1.

On September 3, 2013, Defendants United Express Jewelry, Gabriel Nisanov, and Israel Nisanov (collectively, "the United Express Defendants") submitted a Motion to Dismiss Counts Four, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Fourteen, and Fifteen of Plaintiffs' Complaint. ECF 2. On September 4, Defendants the City of Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and Detective Frank Straup submitted a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 4. On September 5, Defendants the City of Philadelphia and Frank Straup submitted an Answer. ECF 5. On September 17, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. ECF 12. Plaintiffs submitted another Amended Complaint on September 18, 2013.[1] ECF 14 [hereinafter "Am. Compl."].

On September 26, 2013, this Court dismissed the Motion to Dismiss filed on September 4, 2013 by the City of Philadelphia, Charles H. Ramsey, and Frank Straup, as moot. ECF 16.

On October 10, 2013, the United Express Defendants filed another Motion to Dismiss. ECF 20. On October 11, 2013, Defendants Haviv Kasab and Yellow Gold, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 21. On the same day, Defendants Aslan Bawabeh, David Bawabeh, and Italy in Gold Star, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 23. Also on October 11, 2013, Defendants the City of Philadelphia and Frank Straup (collectively, the "City Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 24.

On October 25, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition to the four Motions to Dismiss. ECF 25.

On November 5, 2013, the United Express Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition. ECF 28.

III. The Parties' Contentions

A. The Complaint

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs' father, Jamal Safa, owned a jewelry store in the Bronx called New Diamond City, which closed in 2010. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33. Plaintiffs allege that they worked in that shop on a part-time, seasonal basis. Id . ¶ 36. Plaintiffs assert that they had no ownership interest in New Diamond City, nor did they sign contracts with any of the jewelry wholesale defendants. Id . ¶¶ 37-38. As part of his business, according to Plaintiffs, Jamal Safa obtained merchandise from the wholesalers on credit. Id . ¶ 40.

In March 2011, Plaintiffs assert that they opened Exotic Diamond Jewelers of Philadelphia ("Exotic Diamond"), a wholly independent business, started with new inventory. Id . ¶¶ 35, 46. Plaintiffs state that Jamal Safa had never had an ownership interest in Exotic Diamond. Id . ¶ 47.

Without alleging a specific time period, Plaintiffs allege that the wholesalers conspired to use the criminal justice system to retrieve compensation for Jamal Safa's debts through his sons, Plaintiffs. Id . ¶ 48. Plaintiffs assert that the jewelry wholesalers hired a private investigator from the G.S. Consulting Group, Inc. - a firm headed by Defendant Gerald Schembri that employed Defendant Hillel Jack Attali. Id . ¶ 49.

Plaintiffs assert that the private investigator(s) led the wholesalers to Philadelphia, where they targeted Exotic Diamond. Id . ¶ 50. Then, according to Plaintiffs, the private investigators contacted Detective Frank Straup, and eventually, three of ten clients (Plaintiffs specifically name Gabriel Nisanov of United Express) met with Detective Straup. Id . ¶¶ 51, 55. Plaintiffs allege that Detective Straup and the private investigators conspired to force Plaintiffs to satisfy the purported, unsecured debts of their father by having Detective Straup seize Plaintiffs' merchandise and arrest Plaintiffs even though they knew that Plaintiffs had committed no crime. Id . ¶¶ 52-54.

According to Plaintiffs, Defendant Straup conducted a minimal investigation, that included only (1) interviewing Gabriel Nisanov, (2) reviewing a catalog of pieces that Gabriel Nisanov claimed were his designs, (3) looking at photos of the Exotic Diamond store windows, and (4) visiting Exotic Diamond and looking at the merchandise in the store window. Id . ¶ 57. Plaintiffs allege that Detective Straup ...


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