Joppa investor sues former partners over sale of site for day care center

September 10, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A Joppa investor is suing some of his former partners in Little Scholars Inc., a proposed day care center, alleging they conspired to cut him out of the business venture.

James W. Shaw Jr. of Joppa contends that his partners sold the Bel Air property intended for the center in 1992 and used his investment money to support the opening of Mother's Choice Day Care Center Inc. on the same site.

In his lawsuit filed in Harford Circuit Court Sept. 1, Mr. Shaw alleges that former partners Chester Price of Fallston, Richard Poteet of Street, Patricia Bergamy of Bel Air and Wendy Harrison of Bel Air led him to believe in 1991 that the property in the 800 block of Moores Mill Road in Bel Air had to be sold to eliminate corporate debts.

Mother's Choice now operates at the site, and Ms. Harrison is its president.

Mr. Shaw says that before the planned sale to Smith Development Co. Inc. was completed, Ms. Harrison began incorporating Mother's Choice on Dec. 17, 1991.

The same former partners, plus Jamie Korman, an employee of Smith Development Co., and others were shareholders in the new operation, the suit contends.

"I would like to say a lot of things, but my attorney has advised saying, 'No comment,' " Ms. Harrison said last week.

Mr. Shaw says in the suit that he held 270 of 1,000 shares in Little Scholars and had invested more than $100,000 to pay for business, architectural and site plans for the proposed venture.

When the shareholders failed to obtain construction financing, Mr. Shaw says he agreed to sell the Moores Mill Road property for $300,000 and signed a contract to do so on Sept. 4, 1991.

Under a Feb. 27, 1992, agreement, the shareholders of Little Scholars turned over all their shares to Ms. Korman in return for her accepting debts of $255,000 and paying $73,000 in cash to Mr. Shaw -- a total of $328,000 -- the suit says. Mr. Shaw contends he believed the deal was part of the "finalization of the sale."

Through that transaction, Ms. Korman became the sole officer and director of Little Scholars. On March 3, 1992, the suit says, Ms. Korman sold all Little Scholars' interest in the Moores Mill Road property to Mother's Choice -- not Smith Development Co. -- for $375,000.

Mr. Shaw alleges that the defendants intentionally did not tell him of the higher sale price and that the ultimate buyer was Mother's Choice, not the development company.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Shaw is seeking $300,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for each of five counts of alleged concealment, intentional misrepresentation, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy plus three times the $300,000 damage amount for allegedly conducting racketeering activities by mail through the U.S. Postal Service.

In other recent Circuit Court matters:

* An Abingdon woman who was sentenced to 30 days in jail in January for dumping household items belonging to her uncle on his Fallston landlord's lawn last year appealed in Circuit Court and received no jail time, court records show.

Renee Jane Shiflett, 28, of the 600 block of Milford Court originally was sentenced to 30 days in jail in Harford County District Court on trespassing charges.

According to records, the Baltimore landlord, Michael Tucker, had warned Ms. Shiflett not to return to the Fallston property in the 2100 block of Parsonage Lane where her uncle was being evicted Oct. 18, 1994.

Ms. Shiflett represented herself before Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron at her appeal Tuesday.

Judge Waldron found her guilty and gave her a 60-day jail sentence, which he suspended. He fined her $50, ordered her to pay $100 restitution to Mr. Tucker and perform 10 hours of community service. He also placed her on one year of probation and ordered her to stay away from the Parsonage Lane address.

* Jimmy Lee McLaughlin, 20, of Aberdeen was sentenced Thursday to seven years in state prison with all but three years suspended for his role in shooting an Aberdeen man after they had argued during a card game Jan. 26.

Police said that soon after Fredrick Pipkins was shot in the side and hand with a sawed-off shotgun, they found McLaughlin hiding in a nearby apartment in the first block of E. Bel Air Ave. after he called the apartment where the card game was being held, court records show. Police used the apartment telephone's Caller ID to locate McLaughlin at an apartment three doors away, and he was arrested there.

L Mr. Pipkins was not seriously injured, court records showed.

McLaughlin was ordered to serve two years' supervised probation on his release, and prosecutors dropped remaining charges in return for his guilty plea to assault and battery.

* Kevin Cordell Benjamin, 28, of the 1700 block of Ironwood Court in Bel Air was sentenced Thursday to five years in state prison with all but four years suspended after he pleaded guilty to firing two shots at a dump truck driver in Fallston on April 3.

According to court records, Benjamin called deputies and confessed after learning they were looking for him.

The truck driver, Douglas Allen Ropers, was not injured, but a bullet hole was found in his dump truck.

Benjamin also was given a three-year suspended sentence for transporting a loaded pistol in his car and a two-year concurrent sentence for passing a bad check.

The bad-check charge in February stemmed from Benjamin paying an auto repair shop $410 with insufficient funds to cover the check, court records showed.

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