INDIANAPOLIS - A group of Indiana businessmen, including Lake County Council
President John Aguilera, have filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump,
saying the developer reneged on a promise to give them control of a 15 percent
stake in his Gary riverboat casino.
The proposed deal between Trump and the businessmen involved no up-front
cash payment from the businessmen. Their investment was to be funded by a $1.4
million promissory note from each participant, which would later be repaid in
cash or dividends from Trump's hotel and casino company.
The businessmen's lawsuit asks the court to grant the men and a charitable
trust the 15 percent cut in dispute.
The lawsuit alleges the arrangement fell apart after the Indiana Gaming
Commission accepted Trump's group as one of the two companies to be given a
preliminary license to operate a riverboat in Gary.
"Once they got the (preliminary license), they cut us completely out of the
deal without bothering to disclose in the prospectus the commitment they had
made to our clients and to the charitable foundation," said attorney Fred R.
Biesecker, who represents two of the investors.
Aguilera, D-East Chicago, said late Saturday that he could not comment on
specific details of the lawsuit. However, he said the group of local investors
had used their influence to help recommend Trump's casino because of the
economic stimulation it could bring to Gary.
"I think this case is going to stand on its own merit," Aguilera said,
reading from a prepared statement. "I am concerned about how things have been
handled to this point. We expect Mr. Trump to live up to his commitments to the
city of Gary, to the Trump Foundation, to the investors and to the gaming
Aguilera said the commission approved Trump's casino plan to help stimulate
Gary's economy, not to aid in Trump's personal gain.
"When we signed on, we were led to believe we would have the opportunity to
help meet the needs of our community," Aguilera said, adding he will be
discussing the state of his personal involvement in the project with Gary Mayor
Seven individuals and five trusts set up by Indianapolis attorney Buddy
Yosha are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District
Court in Indianapolis against Trump and his companies, including Trump Hotels &
Casino Resorts Inc. and Trump Indiana Inc.
In addition to Aguilera, the plaintiffs include Lake County residents Dr.
Keshav D. Aggarwal; Jorge Benavente; Charles Carter; The Rev. Charles Emery and
Larry McWay. Yosha and William Mays, president of Mays Chemical Co. in
Indianapolis, also are plaintiffs in the case.
Trump had listed the men as "proposed local minority participants" in his
Gary casino when he went before state regulators in 1994 to apply for a
riverboat gambling license.
In the application, Trump proposed the businessmen would own a 7.5 percent
interest in his riverboat company and another 7.5 percent would belong to a
charitable foundation in which the men would serve as trustees. The Trump
organization held the remaining 85 percent in the venture.
In March 1995, Trump formed a new corporation, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts
Inc. A former company with a similar name was changed to Trump Indiana Inc.,
and Trump initiated a public stock offering with the proceeds going to Trump
Plaza and the Gary riverboat project.
Donald Tabbert, an Indianapolis attorney representing Trump in his riverboat
venture, could not be reached for comment.
In a letter to the gaming commission, Tabbert has said Trump Indiana never
misrepresented that its shareholders included the proposed local investors.
Trump Indiana never asked for or received money from the men, he also wrote.