Man sues tourist's Samaritan

September 25, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

A Laurel man who got himself and a Dutch tourist free airline trips, hotel rooms and limousine rides in Florida this summer by claiming the tourist was cheated by a New York cabbie is being sued by a disabled veteran who contends he was defrauded of more than $18,000.

Arnold B. Miller argues that the allegations of Alfred B. Chiesa of Arnold are groundless and he is seeking to have the suit dismissed.

A hearing on the motion was argued in Howard County Circuit Court this past week.

Circuit Judge Raymond Kane Jr. said he would issue a decision later.

"The whole thing doesn't fit. It's a paranoid story of someone who is trying to fit this into a fraud claim," said Mr. Miller's attorney, Christopher M. Johns of Germantown. "Mr. Miller is an honorable man."

"I haven't done anything wrong. That's what is so irritable," Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Chiesa's attorney, Alan Bernstein, declined to comment.

Mr. Miller, who goes by the name A. B. Miller, befriended Sasa Nikolic in July in the lobby of the Laurel Econo-Lodge Motel after Mr. Nikolic was dropped off there by a New York cabdriver. Mr. Nikolic, who traveled to the United States on July 3 for a two-week vacation, said he paid the cabbie $472 to drive him from New York to Washington.

Mr. Miller, who said he was outraged that Mr. Nikolic was charged $472 for the ride, stirred media and tourist industry interest in what happened to Mr. Nikolic. The result included free trips to Walt Disney World in Florida, Colonial Williamsburg and the nation's capital for both men.

Last week Mr. Nikolic, who is staying with Mr. Miller at the Laurel Econo-Lodge, began the process of seeking a permit to work in the United States and become an American citizen.

Mr. Nikolic said Mr. Miller has not asked him to lend him any money.

In the suit against Mr. Miller, Mr. Chiesa contends that in early 1990, Mr. Miller and Diane Allen, a nurse and at that time Mr. Miller's girlfriend, "went to considerable efforts" to gain his confidence.

Mr. Chiesa claims in the suit, filed in Howard County, that Mr. Miller and Ms. Allen, formerly of Laurel, convinced him that his family was not to be trusted with his finances.

Mr. Chiesa contends that the pair persuaded him to make Mr. Miller a joint holder of his savings, checking and investments accounts so that Mr. Miller could investigate whether his finances had been mishandled by his family.

The lawsuit contends that on April 17, 1990, Mr. Miller went to the Laurel branch of Chevy Chase Bank and "without [Mr. Chiesa's] knowledge" withdrew $15,052 from the joint account. The suit states Mr. Miller also cashed a $6,000 check and withdrew an additional $1,000.

Mr. Chiesa says in the suit that when he became aware of the withdrawals a few days later, he confronted Mr. Miller and was told the withdrawals should be considered loans.

Mr. Miller agreed to sign three promissory notes, payable at 12 percent interest, Mr. Chiesa says.

The suit states that $18,689 was due from Mr. Miller and Ms. Allen on Feb. 3, 1991, but that none of the money was ever repaid.

Mr. Miller counters that he has known Mr. Chiesa's family for 15 years and that it was Mr. Chiesa who approached him for help in determining whether family members were mismanaging his finances.

He denies any liability for the debt and argues that the suit should be dismissed because a three-year statute of limitations on contract disputes expired before the suit was filed.

Mr. Miller's attorney, Mr. Johns, said he also will seek to prove that Mr. Chiesa filed a false affidavit as part of the suit,

Ms. Allen, the co-defendant in the suit, has not responded to it.

Mr. Miller said he no longer was seeing Ms. Allen and believed she had married and moved to another state.

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