LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A well-known Hollywood player has settled a long-standing civil case involving his involvement in a now-closed West Hollywood restaurant.
The case between Chris Paciello — an ex-con linked romantically over the years to Madonna, “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Campbell, just to name a few — and the former owners of Murano Restaurant (formerly located at 9010 Melrose) was settled just days before trial was to begin on Tuesday.
Paciello’s lawyers, Keith Fink and K. Keven Steinberg, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The case reportedly was one of the oldest on the civil case docket downtown.
In December 2008, businesswoman Sandy Sachs and psychologist Robin Gans, through their company, Murano Ristorante Partners Inc., sued Paciello over the remodeling and operation of the eatery, alleging the former Miami nightclub owner was liable for negligent misrepresentation, breach-of-contract and detrimental reliance.
The trial was beset by an inordinate number of delays, including medical problems suffered by both a previous judge and by a former Paciello lawyer.
The case was finally reassigned to LA Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos, but the judge had to deal first with Katherine Jackson’s negligence trial against AEG Live concerning the death of her son Michael. That trial lasted five months.
According to the Sachs-Gans court papers, Paciello — whose real name is Christian Ludwigsen — told them in June 2008 that he was interested in investing $600,000 in their restaurant in exchange for 50 percent ownership of the company’s common stock.
Sachs and Gans say they later found out Paciello was an ex-con and banned by law from owning stock in a business that sells alcohol.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native spent seven years in prison. In October 2000, he pleaded guilty to having involvement in a 1993 murder and armed robbery during a home-invasion robbery in Staten Island, in which a housewife was fatally shot. Paciello was the getaway driver.
Gans and Sachs say Paciello agreed to lend them the $600,000 if they remodeled Murano and reopened by Labor Day with a chef picked by him.
According to their lawsuit, Paciello assured them “that with his celebrity connections like Kevin Connolly, Leonardo DiCaprio — who is producing a movie about the nightclub king’s life — Madonna and many more, that [Murano] would become the hot spot in Los Angeles.”
Although Gans and Sachs completed the improvements, Paciello loaned them only $350,240, claiming he could not provide the rest because he was “broke,” according to the plaintiffs.
Paciello, 42, counter-sued Sachs and Gans in January 2009. Paciello’s attorneys later dropped Gans as a defendant. The Hollywood man alleged fraud and deceit, breach of a written contract and both intentional and negligent misrepresentation.
Paciello’s lawsuit stated that he lent the women $400,000 in exchange for their promise to make him the “front man” at Murano, with a management fee distribution equal to half of Murano’s profits. Instead, he alleges, Sachs “exerted control over every aspect of the restaurant, most of the time detrimentally interfering with management and operation.”
The $400,000 Paciello claimed he lent the women was never repaid, according to his suit.
Paciello formerly owned the nightclubs Liquid and Bar Room in Miami’s South Beach area, as well as Cristoni Pizzerias in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. He is credited with revitalizing Miami Beach’s Delano Hotel as a destination spot for celebrities.
“Kings of South Beach,” a film loosely based on Paciello’s life in Florida, was released by the A&E Network in 2007. It starred Donnie Wahlberg, Jason Gedrick and Steven Bauer.
In addition to the aforementioned female celebrities, Paciello was also linked romantically to MTV host Daisy Fuentes and model Niki Taylor.
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