Couple’s lawsuit can remain active, judge rules
Two Aspen real estate agents have been awarded more than $400,000 in their lawsuit against multiple defendants for allegedly swindling them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a start-up film distribution and production company in California.
The default judgment from a Connecticut judge for Bob and Debra Ritchie against four of the defendants was disclosed last month as the couple sought to keep active their lawsuit against two other men, Joshua Long and Joseph Long, in Pitkin County District Court.
The Ritchies are still trying to serve their lawsuit on the men — it’s unknown if they are related — who the plaintiffs say used tales of moneyed Spaniards, Keanu Reeves and Garfield the cartoon cat to entice the couple into providing a $250,000 loan.
The plaintiffs faced a Dec. 11 dismissal deadline for failure to prosecute that stemmed from their inability thus far to serve Joshua Long and Joseph Long with the lawsuit.
“It is believed that they are actively avoiding service,” said the Ritchies’ motion to retain the lawsuit on the local docket.
Judge Jonathan Pototsky of the 9th Judicial District on Dec. 18 ruled that the Ritchies’ local lawsuit, filed in November 2011, can remain active.
At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, Debra Ritchie said a longtime friend, Bob Pollak, brought her the investment opportunity in 2009 related to an entertainment company called Instavision. He is one of the defendants.
In return for the loan, the couple was to receive revenue sharing of 7 percent from the “Garfield” show being on Cartoon Network and from other rights related to the fat cat, the lawsuit says.
Four days before they made the loan, they received an email from Joseph Long, allegedly another Instavision principal.
In it, according to the lawsuit, he tells Debra Ritchie that she “might like to see an interview with Keanu regarding Cowboy Bebop, which we are producing at 20th [Century Fox].”
The lawsuit says the email, and others, are “full of misrepresentations and omissions, and was an attempt to induce the plaintiffs to make loans to Instavision. Instavision was not producing Cowboy Bebop with 20th [Century Fox]. ... The interview and reference to ‘Keanu’ was trading on the name of Keanu Reeves.”
The couple received one interest payment for $20,000, along with other tales that were allegedly attempts to get them to delay collecting the rest of the debt, according to the lawsuit.
“We met with Alvaro Enciso, a financial advisor to Spain’s two wealthiest families yesterday, and he’s preparing a $5 million package for them to invest in Instavision (for a 30 percent stake),” says an email sent to the plaintiffs. “He’s having lunch with the families’ patriarch today and will lay the groundwork. Alvaro has already said ‘yes’ and now needs to get his clients educated on the industry.”
“There was a lot of hype around where they were going and what they were doing,” Debra Ritchie said in 2011. “They were saying this was going to be this, that and the other thing.”
Eventually, the plans “all went awry,” she said.
Besides Pollak, Joshua Long and Joseph Long, the lawsuit also named as defendants Instavision Holding Corp., Instavision Distribution Corp., and TGS Holdings Inc., all business entities allegedly tied to the men.
Instavision, which the lawsuit contends is in default, is mentioned in a 2010 Vivendi Entertainment press release posted on garfield.com about the Cartoon Network news.
“We’re thrilled to have Vivendi Entertainment as a partner in distributing The Garfield Show in both the retail and digital environments,” Instavision CEO Joshua Long said in the Vivendi release.
The Ritchies’ loan was supposed to be paid back at a rate of $15,000 a month — plus the dividends they earned through their investment — with the entire amount due in May 2010, the lawsuit says.
In April, the Ritchies, after pursuing an out-of-state collection against Pollak and the companies, were awarded $400,201.68 by a Connecticut judge, which includes the loan amount, interest and attorney fees, a court filing shows.
“Through the deposition of Bob Pollak, the plaintiffs will be attempting to determine the location of defendants Joshua Long and Joseph Long so that they be served” with the lawsuit, wrote the Ritchies’ attorney, David Kelly of Aspen.