United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. CURTIS JOYNER, District Judge.
This case is now before the Court for disposition of competing motions for summary judgment filed by both parties. For the reasons outlined below, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
This action arises out of what appears to be a very bitter divorce proceeding which is still ongoing in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. According to the averments contained in the Complaint, Plaintiff was married to one Kimberly Romm on August 3, 2003; the couple separated on February 20, 2010. Both Khan and Romm owned pre-marital homes in Montgomery County which they purportedly agreed to place in one another's names such that those properties would thereafter be owned jointly. Plaintiff avers that he and Romm duly executed and had new deeds notarized and that Romm then took possession of the deeds, recording the deed to Khan's former pre-marital residence but failing to record the deed transferring her pre-marital home to joint ownership. Romm "now denies that this mutual agreement and transaction ever occurred." (Pl's Compl., ¶ 8).
During the course of the marriage, Romm purchased 7 properties. Five of those properties were titled in her own name, one was titled jointly with Khan and the seventh, a commercial property located at 1324 Locust Street, Philadelphia, was titled under the name "Indian Creek Investments LLC, " an entity which was formed in November, 2007. Khan alleges that the funds used to purchase these parcels came, in large part or entirely, from some $1.5 million in loans taken out and liened against his pre-marital home and that this home is now in foreclosure because he is unable to pay the debt service and other related expenses necessary to retain ownership. As against Defendant Vayn, he "believe[s] and aver[s]" that Romm and Vayn are "close friends" and that "prior to and since Khan's separation from Romm, Vayn has been hiding assets belonging to Romm, in an effort to deprive Khan of his equitable distribution of the true marital estate." (Pl's Compl., ¶s 11, 12).
Plaintiff's complaint further details that Romm signed several amendments and other documents concerning the ownership, operation and capitalization of Indian Creek which, according to Plaintiff, evince that Vayn fraudulently assumed ownership of Indian Creek and the Locust Street property with the express purpose of convincing the divorce court that neither Indian Creek nor the Locust Street real estate are marital property. Plaintiff seeks to hold Vayn liable under the theory that he conspired with Romm to commit common law fraud, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(a)-(d) ("RICO"), and was unjustly enriched. Discovery in this matter closed on November 29, 2013 and both parties now move for the entry of judgment in their favor as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Standards for Ruling on Summary Judgment Motions
As noted, the parties seek the entry of summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Subsection (a) of that Rule provides,
A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense - or the part of each claim or defense - on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.
Under this rule then, summary judgment is appropriate only if there are no genuine issues of material fact such that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Erdman v. Nationwide Insurance Co. , 582 F.3d 500, 502 (3d Cir. 2009). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the reviewing court should view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Burton v. Teleflex, Inc. , 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013). The initial burden is on the party seeking summary judgment to point to the evidence "which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." United States v. Donovan , 661 F.2d 174, 185 (3d Cir. 2011)(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). An issue is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Kaucher v. County of Bucks , 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006)(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). If the non-moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, "the moving party may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to carry that burden." Id, (quoting Wetzel v. Tucker , 139 F.3d 380, 383 n.2 (3d Cir. 1998)). "The mere existence of some evidence in support of the nonmovant is insufficient to deny a motion for summary judgment; enough evidence must exist to enable a jury to reasonably find for the nonmovant on the issue." Renchenski v. Williams , 622 F.3d 315, 324 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoting Giles v. Kearney , 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Thus, "if there is a chance that a reasonable juror would not accept a moving party's necessary propositions of fact, " summary judgment is inappropriate. Id . (quoting El v. SEPTA , 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007)).
As noted, Plaintiff's complaint contains three counts asserting causes of action for violations of the civil RICO statute, for fraud and conspiracy and for unjust enrichment. We consider each count of the complaint in turn.
RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1961, et. seq. provides for civil actions in which treble damages and attorney's fees may be recovered to vindicate "[a]ny person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of Section 1962 of this chapter..." 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c); Rotella v. Wood , 528 U.S. 549, 552, 120 S.Ct. 1075, 1078, 145 L.Ed.2d 1047, 1053 (2000). There are four possible ways to violate Section 1962:
(a) It shall be unlawful for any person who has received any income derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt in which such person has participated as a principal within the meaning of Section 2, title 18, United States Code, to use or invest, directly or indirectly, any part of such income, or the proceeds of such income, in acquisition of any interest in, or the establishment or operation of, any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce. A purchase of securities on the open market for purposes of investment, and without the intention of controlling or participating in the control of the issuer, or of assisting another to do so, shall not be unlawful under this subsection if the securities of the issuer held by the purchaser, the members of his immediate family, and his or their accomplices in any pattern of racketeering activity or the ...