Court sides with Yelp. Manipulation of reviews not wrongful use.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with Yelp against accusations that the company is manipulating the review ratings of businesses to be able to sell advertising.

Yelp has been accused that the company gives a higher rating to businesses that purchases advertising spots, which Yelp has adamantly denied. However, even if the accusations were proven to be true, the court ruled that Yelp is allowed to set the prices for its ads, and that Yelp is not legally bound to give certain businesses a high rating.

As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm … is, at most, hard bargaining, and not an unfair business practice or extortion, said Judge Marsha Berzon.

The appeals court upheld the decision of a federal judge to dismiss a class-action damage lawsuit that was filed by owners of small businesses that alleged Yelps sales representatives saying that the ratings of their businesses will depend on whether or not they buy advertisements on Yelp.

Ive got hundreds of people who have called me with this problem: When they stopped advertising with Yelp, their good reviews got stripped out, said Lawrence Murray, the lawyer of the business owners that filed the lawsuit.

What does it take, to have a gun to their head? … This is extortion in any othersetting.

According to Yelp, the accusations are simply not true, as the software that the company uses to filter incoming reviews does not distinguish between businesses that advertise and those that dont.

According to Aaron Schur, Yelps litigation director, the company has long been receiving false accusations of tampering with business ratings for monetary gains.

However, John Mercurio, one of the plaintiffs for the lawsuit, is still considering to continue with the legal battle despite filing for personal bankruptcy.

Mercurio said that after he declined an offer for $500 per month of advertising, Yelp took down 14 five-star ratings for his car repair shop in Santa Clara, California. In addition, a 1-star rating appeared on his business listing, which was a factor in the 30 percent decrease in sales for the business.

I cant believe they got away with it, Mercurio said of regarding the decision of the appeals court. Its mafia of the Internet. Youre basically a hostage: pay up or die.

Yelp receives 138 million visitors monthly, with the company expecting revenue of as much as $375 million this year.

Bridgeport mayor facing drug charge files for bankruptcy

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. Embattled Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount filed for personal bankruptcy in federal court Friday.

Court documents indicate Blount has more than $1.5 million in liabilities and only has assets valued at $185,000. The largest part of Blounts debt is owed to former partners and business associates.

Blount, 51, is a registered pharmacist who operates Bridgeport’s Best Care pharmacy. He is expected to plead guilty in US District Court next week to charges he illegally dispensed oxycodone and oxymorphone.

Blount claimed in bankruptcy paperwork he is a roofer in Bridgeport and brings home $1,751 a month. He claimed his monthly expenses were $6,503 including a mortgage payment in excess of $2,000.

Michael Allan Scott Readership Spikes As Fans Eagerly Await Third Book in …

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Sept. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ –With the success of the second Lance Underphal Mystery, fans and reviewers are busy describing the Arizona authors mystery books as killer. Their intricate plotting gets 5 star acclaim, pushing the envelope in the mystery, thriller, suspense genres.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140908/143932
Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140908/143931

Following hot on the heels of Flight of the Tarantula Hawk is the release announcement for the third mystery novel in the series, Grey Daze.

As Dark Side of Sunset Pointebegins the series, Lance Underphal suffers business and personal bankruptcy, wiped out by the Great Recession, hitting rock bottom when he loses his wife at the hands of a drunk driver.

Broke and living in squalor, Lance struggles to expose shady real estate developers, crooked bankers, and a blackmailing stripper. With the guidance of his dead wife, Lance finds the courage to share his insights with a skeptical homicide detective as the body count mounts. Lances only hopethe voice in his head, his dead wife.

Reviewers praised Scotts interplay of corrupt characters immersed in real-life schemes. Paranormal twists and fast action in movie-like scenes set the storys mystery thriller elements apart from the typical whodunit and serial-killer thriller.

In the second Lance Underphal Mystery, Flight of the Tarantula Hawk, Scottraises paranormal intrigue to a new level. A giant desert wasp known as a tarantula hawk paralyzes tarantula spiders, burying tarantulas to lay eggs in the spiders bellies which grow to eat them alive. As one reviewer put it, this book is not for the faint of heart.

Dark and gritty, this psychic journey of realism twists through vacant bank foreclosures and a Goth fest gone wrong to wind up in a shiny new morgue. Once again plagued by murderous visions, Lance fights to identify a psychotic killer before he falls victim, himself. His dead wife, the only voice standing between Lance and annihilation.

Gray Daze, Scotts third Lance Underphal Mystery, reportedly immerses Underphal in another murder spreea crime ring preying on the elderly. Federal agents of the ATF, gun-running bikers, and an ex-SEAL private investigator mix it up while Lances dead wife looks over his shoulder, guiding him to redemption.

The emergence of these three unique tales propels Michael Allan Scott and his psychic sleuth into new territory for a contemporary murder mystery series. Not noir, but owing a bit to noir, not horror, but owing a bit to the horror genre, they are sometimes police procedurals, other times haunting precog fantasies. Like good jazz, a melding of styles, a melding of genresultra-cool compositions.

As the Lance Underphal mysteries come of age, they deepen, developing with each new novel, expanding the boundaries of the mystery thriller genre.

Author Links:

Flight of the Tarantula Hawkbook trailer: http://youtu.be/Ct51YnzBgPQ

Author website: http://michaelallanscott.com/

Contact:

Laurie Jessup,

Jessup Communications Corporation

(727) 743-9579

SOURCE Michael Allan Scott

RELATED LINKS
http://michaelallanscott.com

Automatic Stays Help You Deal with Creditors During Bankruptcy

One of the immediate results of filing for bankruptcy in Bakersfield is relief from creditors. This benefit is called an automatic stay. As soon as your paperwork is filed in court, the automatic stay goes into effect, although there is typically some lag time between the filing itself and the mailing of notices to your creditors.

For this reason, faxing or delivering a copy of the court paperwork to your creditors is a good idea. Once all of your creditors have been notified of your filing for bankruptcy, they are prohibited from calling, writing or otherwise harassing you about your outstanding debt. If you receive communication from your creditors after the stay has gone into effect, contact your attorney.

Automatic Stays Will Buying You Time

The automatic stay can prevent a number of potentially catastrophic things from happening, and in some cases is reason enough to file for bankruptcy. In the event that your utilities are at risk of being cut off, the automatic stay should prevent disconnection for at least a few weeks. It can also temporarily halt any foreclosure proceedings. (Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 is a good idea if you’re determined to retain possession of your home.) The automatic stay may also buy you some time if you’ve been threatened with eviction, and it will prevent any garnishment of your wages.

What to know about Automatic Stays Bankruptcy Filings in Bakersfield

There are some things the automatic stay cannot do. For example, any criminal proceedings against you may go forward, with any non-financial penalties remaining in effect. Additionally, if you have been sued for support payments such as alimony or child support, such suits are not affected by a bankruptcy.

All of the processes and laws surrounding a personal bankruptcy are complex, and many aspects of bankruptcy depend on individual cases. For questions about what the automatic stay can and cannot do, or for more information about any aspect of this process, schedule a free consultation with D. Max Gardner, a skilled Bakersfield bankruptcy attorney at The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP.

Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount Files for Bankruptcy

Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount filed for personal bankruptcy Friday in bankruptcy court. Blount is scheduled to plead guilty next week in connection to drug-related crimes while working as a pharmacist at Best Care Pharmacy.

Blounts filing indicates he has $185,432.84 in assets, and $1,550,085.96 in liabilities. Most of Blounts debt is $1,220,574.21 is in unsecured nonpriority claims. Blounts filing indicates he brings home approximately $1,751 a month while working as a roofer in Bridgeport, while his monthly expenses are $6,503, which includes a $2,036 mortgage payment. Blounts various debts indicate that he owes several hundred thousand dollars to former business partners and associates.

Blount says he had earned $73,450.06 this year and that he earned $130,000 in 2012 and $115,992 in 2012. The filing indicates Blount doesnt have any cash, but has approximately $6,000 in a checking account.

Read the complete bankruptcy filing here.

Blount, 51, a registered pharmacist, and two other defendants, Angela Davis, 51, and April Davis, 23, were indicted in May 2014 by a federal grand jury in Martinsburg. The federal documents contain an unexecuted waiver of indictment, meaning a plea agreement has been reached, although Blount has not signed it or entered into it in court. A plea hearing is scheduled for 11:30 am September 12 in front of US District Judge Irene M. Keeley

Blount has previously declined to step down as the mayor of Bridgeport.

Recent court documents indicate that the trio conspired together to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone, among other substances, outside the scope of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purposes. Count two of the information alleges Blount failed to report a prescription filling of 150 oxymorphone 15 mg pills for Angela Davis. Count three alleges Blount unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally distributed a quantity of oxymorphone to Angela Davis without a physicians prescription.

Flashpoint: Detroit bankruptcy and the governor’s race

? Devin: THE CITYS BANKRUPTCY TRIAL IS UNDER WAY. SYNCORA IS READY TO THROW THE WHOLE PROCESS INTO TURMOIL. BUT DO THEY HAVE A POINT? AND THE GOVERNOR LAUNCHES A NEW AD BLITZ AS THE STATES LEADING CONSERVATIVE THINK TANK SAYS THE ELECTION IS A COIN TOSS. THIS IS FLASHPOINT. HI, WELCOME TO FLASHPOINT ON THIS SEPTEMBER 7, WHERE WE PONDER THESE QUESTIONS: IS DETROIT READY TO BOUNCE BACK? IS DETROIT READY TO PROVE THE PROGNOSTICATORS WRONG? DO YOU SUPPOSE IM TALKING ABOUT THE CITY OF DETROIT ON THE DETROIT LIONS WHO OPEN TOMORROW NIGHT ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL? THE QUESTIONS FIT BOTH AT THE MOMENT. THE LIONS HAVE A SHOT AT A NEW START THANKS TO A NEW SEASON, A KNOW COACH AND NEW FACES ON THE TEAM AND THE CITY HAS ITS SHOT NOW THAT THE BANKRUPTCY TRIAL IS UNDER WAY. THE MAJORITY OF DEBT HOLDERS HAVE EMBRACED THE PLAN BUT THE NOTABLES ARE NOT GOING QUIETLY. WE WATCHED THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN SYNCORA AND THE BANKRUPTCY JUDGE. NOT ALL OF THE DEBT HOLDERS ACCORDING TO SYNCORA ARE NOT BEING TREATED EQUALLY. DO THEY HAVE A POINT? IT WOULD MEAN STARTING THE PROCESS OVER, BUT ARE THEY BEING TREATED DIFFERENTLY FROM, SAY, THE PENSIONHOLDERS? WELL TALK ABOUT THAT. AND THE ELECTION SEASON IS READY FOR FULL THROTTLE. YOU HAVE PROBABLY NOTICED THE GOVERNORS BIG AD ROLLOUT AND COMES NO LESS A CONSERVATIVE AUTHORITY SAYS THE GOVERNORS REELECTION IS IN JEOPARDY. AN INCUMBENT REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR HAS NOT LOST A REELECTION BID IN MICHIGAN SINCE AFTER WORLD WAR II. WHATS GOING ON? ITS ALL TODAY ON FLASHPOINT. ? ? Devin: THIS IS THE VERY LAST PROGRAM THAT WELL BE COMING TO YOU FROM THESE SURROUNDINGS, SO WE WILL HAVE A BRAND-NEW LOOK FOR FLASHPOINT NEXT WEEK. SO ITS A VERY HONORED GUEST LIST, I WOULD HAVE TO SAY. JOINING ME IS SHEILA COCKREL, PORSCHE ROBINSON, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK. AND NEXT TO HIM, FROM MITCHELL COMMUNICATIONS, STEVE MITCHELL. THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE! I WILL FIGHT OVER WHO TAKES THE TABLE. [LAUGHTER] [OVERLAPPING SPEAKERS] IVE BEEN AROUND HERE FOR 13 YEARS. Devin: PORSCHE, LET ME START WITH YOU, AS AN ATTORNEY, YOU WORK FOR THE CITY AND HAVE A VESTED INTEREST. WE HAVE THE BANKRUPTCY TRIAL UNDER WAY AND HAD A FASCINATING EXCHANGE BETWEEN THE JUDGE AND THE LAWYERS FOR SYNCORA. SYNCORA IS ARGUING BEFORE WE EVER GET TO — THEY ARGUE THE ART SHOULD BE SOLD AND SAY THE LAW DEMANDS THAT EVERY DEBTHOLDER BEING TREATED THE SAME. WHEN THEYRE GETTING LITTLE ON EACH DOLLAR AND PENSIONERS ARE TAKING A 5% PAY CUT, DO THEY HAVE A POINT? THEY DO HAVE A POINT. NOBODY WANTS TO SEE PENSIONERS CUT. WE HAD A DISCUSSION THAT THERE ARE PENSIONERS WHO CANT GET ANOTHER JOB. YOURE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO YOU CAN TOUCH AND FEEL AND YOUR NEIGHBORS. BUT THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS, THE CREDITORS SHOULD BE TREATED THE SAME AND SYNCORA IS MAKING A VALID ARGUMENT. SO I DONT KNOW HOW RHODES WILL DECIDE ON THIS, BUT I LOVE THE FACT HE ASKS THE QUESTIONS AND MAKES THE ANSWERS COME ABOUT. HE ASKED THEM, WHAT DO YOU WANT? Devin: HE DIDNT WANT TO ANSWER. AND THEY FINALLY CAME UP WITH 75 CENTS ON THE DOLLAR, LESS THAN WHAT THE PENSIONERS ARE GETTING. IF YOURE SYNCORA AND THEYVE ARGUED THEIR VERY EXISTENCE DEPENDS ON THE OUTCOME OF THIS, AND IF YOURE ABOUT TO LOSE EVERYTHING — THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. THERE ARE POLITICAL ISSUES AND LEGAL ISSUES. THIS HAS THE THUMB ON THE SCALE OF THE POLITICAL SIDE. THE LEGAL ISSUES, SYNCORA HAS A STRONG ARGUMENT TO MAKE. WELL SEE WHAT HAPPENS HERE. BUT THEIR VERY LIVELIHOOD IS AT RISK. THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE INVESTED IN THAT COMPANY HAVE A LOT TO LOSE. ONE THING WE HAVE TO REMEMBER IS THAT SYNCORA IS A COMPANY THAT KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING WHEN THEY GOT INVOLVED IN THIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CITY OF DETROIT BACK IN THAT ERA, IT WAS A RISKY PROPOSITION AT THE TIME AND IT WAS, IN MY OPINION, ONE OF THE HALLMARKS OF AN ERA, ENTITIES LIKE THAT BET ON BOTH SIDES OF TRANSACTIONS. THERES NO WAY THEY DIDNT KNOW THAT THE ENTIRE STRUCTURE OF WHAT WAS BEING DONE HAD INHERENT FUNDAMENTAL PROFOUND RISK. THEY TOOK IT AND LOST. THATS GOOD OL AMERICAN CAPITALISM. THEY DID A LOT OF GOOD FOR DETROIT. WHEN THE MONEY CAME, IT WAS DESPERATELY NEEDED. WITHOUT IT, THE CITY WOULD HAVE BEEN BANKRUPTCY SOONER. Devin: THAT DOESNT MEAN THERE WASNT RISK. THEY BELIEVE THE ART SHOULD BE IN PLAY AND I GUESS THE WAY THAT THEY SEE IT, ITS LIKE IF I WERE TO DECLARE BANKRUPTCY IN MY PERSONAL LIFE AND THEY CAME TO MY HOUSE TO LIQUIDATE EVERYTHING, AND YOU CAN TAKE EVERYTHING BUT THE PICASSO THAT MY GRANDMOTHER GAVE ME, THAT STAYS WITH ME, THEY WOULD LAUGH ME OUT OF THE HOUSE. THE ATTORNEY HAS A FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY TO GET AS MUCH MONEY BACK AS POSSIBLE. THEY TOOK A BET, BUT I DONT THINK THEY THOUGHT IT WAS AN ALL-OR-NOTHING BET. SO ITS A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION FOR THE JUDGE TO HAVE TO WEIGH THROUGH AND IM GLAD IM NOT THE ONE MAKING THE DECISION. THERES A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PERSONAL BANKRUPTCY AND A MUNICIPAL BANKRUPTCY. THEY DO NOT HAVE TO DIVEST THEMSELVES OF ASSETS IN ORDER TO SATISFY BANKRUPTCY. IS THIS UNCHARTED WATERS? ABSOLUTELY. IS WHAT JUDGE RHODES FACING AND IF HE HAS TO MAKE TOUGH DECISIONS THEYRE PRESS DEPARTMENT SETTING AND WILL HAVE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS, WHICH IS WHY IDEALLY THIS THING WOULD SETTLE. BUT ITS SCARY WITH SYNCORA STARTING AT 75 CENTS. AND IF ITS TRUE, FDIC HAS WALKED AWAY FROM THE TABLE. [INAUDIBLE]. THEYVE BEEN IN — IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT! [LAUGHTER] IN COURT, YOU DONT GENERALLY SHOW YOUR HAND. ILL SAY THIS: IF THEY DIDNT KNOW AT THIS POINT THAT THAT JUDGE WOULD MAKE THEM SHOW THEIR HANDS, SHAME ON THEM! ALL THROUGHOUT THIS, JUDGE RHODES HAS BEEN MAKING FOLKS COME TO THE TABLE. BETWEEN 6 AND 75 IS THE NUMBER. YES. Devin: HOWEVER, IF THE PLAN IS ULTIMATELY REJECTED, WHERE ARE WE? WHAT HAPPENS? MORE CANS AND FAX MACHINES THROUGHOUT THE CITY. IM GLAD YOU BROUGHT THAT UP, WELL GET TO THAT. AS MUCH AS YOU HATE PENSIONERS TAKING A CUT AND THE FACT YOU WANT TO TELL CREDITORS THEY CAN ONLY HAVE SO MUCH, DETROIT IS IN DESPERATELY IN NEED OF THE HELP WE GET THROUGH BANKRUPTCY. I CANT IMAGINE WHERE WE END UP IF WE DONT GO THIS ROUTE. THIS WOULD HAVE COME TO A CRASHING HALT A LOT EARLIER IF WE HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO DO THE CASINO DEALS WHEN DENNIS ARCHER WAS MAYOR. WHEN YOU EVER A MAYOR THAT IS NOT A CROOK, YOU CAN AWARD THREE CASINO FRANCHISES AND BUILD TWO STADIUMS AND NOBODY GOES TO JAIL AND YOU BUILD INTO A FOURTH INCOME STREAM INTO THE REVENUE STRUCTURE. HAD THAT NOT BEEN THERE, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN FACING THIS INSOLVENCY LONG TIME AGO. Devin: IT DIDNT TAKE LONG FOR THE CASINO MONEY TO GO FOR SOMETHING ELSE. AND PART OF IT HAD TO DO WITH THE DECISION MADE IN LANSING MADE BY ENGLER TO MAKE IT REPLACEMENT MONEY. Devin: AND THE JOKE YOU GAVE EARLIER, POST-BANKRUPTCY, IF WE HEAD TO POST-BANKRUPTCY, WE HAVE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE TESTIFIED NOW THEIR DOUBTS ABOUT THE EFFICACY OF DETROITS PLAN TO MOVE FORWARD ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS. WE HAD HORRIFIC TESTIMONY THAT TALKED ABOUT, AND I KNOW SHEILA HAS A COUNTERARGUMENT, WHERE WE HAVE FIRE DEPARTMENT THAT IS RELY ON FAX MACHINES TO SEND THEM EMERGENCY WARNINGS. THEYRE SET UP IN SUCH A WAY SO THAT THE PAPER COMES OUT AND KNOCKS OVER A SODA POP CAN SO THE CAN MAKES NOISE TO ALERT THEM THERES AN EMERGENCY. YOU COULDNT MAKE THIS UP! AND I THINK EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT, THATS AN INTERESTING SIDELINE IN THE TRIAL, THE CITYS CFO SAYS THE STARS AND MOON HAVE TO LINE UP FOR THIS PLAN OF ADJUSTMENT TO WORK, AND THATS GOT TO GIVE THE JUDGE A LITTLE BIT OF A PAUSE. WEVE BEEN IN SITUATIONS WHERE WE SAID POPULATION GROWTH AND INCOME GROWTH WILL HAPPEN AND WELL BE READY BY THEN, AND IT DOESNT HAPPEN. Devin: AND I KNOW THERE ARENT 10 SECONDS ON THIS. AND SHEILA WILL HAVE A REBUTTAL ON THE COKE CAN AT THE FAX

Overdue, court-ordered rent payments for West Seattle Club lead to hearing as …

Overdue, court-ordered rent payments for West Seattle Club lead to hearing as part of owners Chapter 11 case
September 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two months after the owner of the West Seattle (Athletic) Club fitness center filed for personal bankruptcy, he and his landlord were in court today because an order to pay part of the club rent hadnt been complied with.

As the club is a major West Seattle business with thousands of customers, community interest in its status remains high, so weve been following the bankruptcy-court-case filings almost 100 of them since Sam Adams and wife Erika Adams filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late June (reported here on June 30th).

Todays hearing was not the first held for various motions since then, but its the first one we have attended. Sam Adams and John Pietromonaco, owner of the clubs North Delridge site and building, were both in the downtown federal courtroom as their lawyers argued a key point relating to the three-week-old order for rent to be paid.

First, a bit of background:

The Adamses Chapter 11 filing on June 28th came just two days before Sam Adams was due in court related to the second unlawful detainer case filed on behalf of Pietromonacos H-P Properties (we reported the filing in mid-June), the type of case that can lead to eviction. The bankruptcy filing subsequently put that matter on hold stayed it, in legal terminology. Then two weeks ago, according to the King County Superior Court docket, it formally closed because of inactivity; an earlier unlawful detainer case closed in February because Adams had paid an amount of money agreeable to the landlord, according to what his lawyer told WSB at the time.

Pietromonaco had said in court documents that Adams owed almost $600,000 at the time of the unlawful-detainer filing in May. In August, via a motion for adequate protection granted by the bankruptcy judge handling the case, Marc Barreca, it was agreed that for now, Adams could just pay post-petition rent. That was to start with what was owed since the bankruptcy filing, rent for July and August.

Judge Barrecas order required payment of the July rent, $110,000, by August 12th, and the August rent by August 19th. The same court order called for Adams to pay the $110,000 rent by the 10th of each subsequent month. If the order wasnt complied with, the judge ruled at the time, the landlord would have the right to seek relief from the stay of state proceedings, which he could grant upon failure of Debtors to show adequate cause for failing to make such payment, and thats what he did today, after observing that not a dime of rent has been paid since his order.

The Adamses lawyer, Lawrence Engel, wanted to have Sam Adams testify to Judge Barreca today about his ongoing attempts to get a loan for the club. The judge said this hadnt been called as an evidentiary hearing, so Adams couldnt speak. Engel then presented a document he described as a term sheet for a $3 million loan Adams has said he is seeking. (So far, this is not filed as an official court document, so we havent seen it and dont know what it says.) Engel mentioned that Adams has appeal to lenders because of his past as an NFL player, which is considered, he said, an asset in the health/fitness industry.

Arguing against the judge granting relief from the stay, Engel also said that while that loan is not a sure thing, at least not yet, a $100,000 loan is, and that Sam Adams could get that money within five days or so and give it to Pietromonaco.

Judge Barreca noted that $100,000 would be less than half what is owed for the post-petition rent for July and August, let alone the previously unpaid sum and what is due for September. So he signed an order granting relief from stay, which means that Pietromonaco and lawyer David Tall are free to go back to King County Superior Court and pursue action relating to the buildings status.

Also of note, Adams is quoted in court documents since the filing as saying that his brother Jeremy Adams is a part owner of the club and serves as its Chief Operating Officer. State documents list Sam Adams as the only governing member of the LLC, as the landlords lawyer pointed out while questioning him for a deposition that he gave under Rule 2004 (explained here), but Adams said that his brother was given an ownership interest last year and that the documents had been changed and submitted.

What happens next? The fitness clubs landlord is just one of the Adamses creditors; the Chapter 11 case in general is continuing to proceed. Well be watching court files, both federal and state (county), to see what happens, especially in the wake of todays order. A year and a half has elapsed since Adams took over what had been West Seattle Allstar Fitness, after its former owner’s bankruptcy case led to the court-approved sale of its assets for $75,000.

Vratsinas bankruptcy no longer shield from creditors

The legal saga of former Greater Des Moines businessman John Vratsinas took an uncommon turn this week when a federal bankruptcy court official dropped a fraud complaint after Vratsinas agreed not use the court as a shield against his creditors.

Vratsinas filed a personal bankruptcy case in June 2013 in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids in which he cited $6.4 million in debts to unsecured creditors. Under the Chapter 7 case, Vratsinas sought to have the majority of his debts discharged or eliminated.

Since that time, court officials have accused him of trying to mislead them about hidden assets.In a filing on behalf of US Trustee Daniel McDermott in March, Vratsinas was accused of embezzlement, fraud and misleading court officials.

The complaint said Vratsinas concealed assets or the transfer of assets among his various companies and to his personal accounts, and lied under oath during bankruptcy hearings.Read more here.

On July 31, Vratsinas agreed to waive a discharge of his debts if McDermotts complaint were dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled.

An order dismissing the complaint was filed this week.

The bankruptcy case will proceed with the continued liquidation of assets. The proceeds from those sales will be used to pay Vratsinas debts on a prorated basis. However, the order means that court officials will not attempt to delve further in Vratsinas finances.

Vratsinas has rolled through a series of Greater Des Moines businesses, including a construction company and employee services providers that are now defunct. Vratsinas now lives in Chicago, by way of Clear Lake and Minneapolis, but he was a prominent businessman, entrepreneur and investor during his years in Greater Des Moines. His civic involvement was noted when he made the Business Records Forty Under 40 class of 2004.

Auction firm rummages through Lamar Construction headquarters before selling …

HUDSONVILLE, MI Bill Melvin Jr. says he often wondered what went on inside Lamar Construction Co.s cantilevered glass building as he drove past on I-196 near Hudsonville.

Now he knows. Melvin, CEO of Liquid Asset Partners LLC, has been sorting the contents of the building onto pallets that will become about 550 auction lots at a Sept. 23 auction. The sale will begin at 9 am at Lamars former headquarters building at 4404 Central Parkway.

The auction is being held to liquidate the companys assets for creditors who are owed millions. Lamar is a 76-year-old company that closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy in July. According to its bankruptcy petition, Lamar owed creditors $37.7 million while holding assets of $24.8 million.

About 280 employees in three states were thrown out of work when the company abruptly shut down after Fifth Third Bank called in its line of credit. The companys owners, Carl Blauwkamp and George Holmes, also have filed for personal bankruptcy in the wake of the failure.

The bankruptcy resulted in an outpouring of job offers from rival construction firms, who offered to hire many of the former Lamar workers due to a shortage of skilled labors in West Michigan.

RELATED: Job fair rolls out red carpet for employees of bankrupt Lamar Construction

RELATED: Lamar Construction Co.s CEO grilled about decision to close in bankruptcy hearing

The auction will sell most of the companys construction supplies, tools and excess materials. The auction will not include the office furniture, which is being held by the building owners, or company vehicles, Melvin said.

Theres definitely a lot of gems and hidden treasures here, said Melvin as he scanned the pallets, which included everything from silver shovels used at groundbreaking events, workout equipment from the companys gym, safety gear, snow blowers, scaffolding boards and hand tools.

Theres going to be some happy bidders, said Melvin, who said other construction companies are sure to seek out bargains from the remains of Lamars assets. Our job is to restore this stuff back into the economy.

Some of the unusual items included mattresses and residential furniture the company moved into out-of-town rental apartments for its workers.

High-end woodworking equipment the company used to make custom cabinets should attract attention from online bidders who are expected to participate, Melvin said.

I think there will be a lot of interest locally, but we also have an international online base.

Melvin, whose business is based in Cascade Township, said Liquid Asset Partners auctions off business assets of all kinds throughout the United States.

A few months ago, we auctioned off a ski hill in northern Michigan, said Melvin, whose company also is liquidating 12 Saks Fifth Avenue stores and also has liquidated a motorcycle factory, exercise clubs and bank repossessions.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

Lamar Construction Co.’s CEO grilled about decision to close in bankruptcy …

GRAND RAPIDS, MI Lamar Construction Co. closed its doors on July 10 after a Fifth Third Bank executive called late that night to cancel the Hudsonville companys line of credit, Carl Blauwkamp, the companys president and CEO, testified on Monday, Aug. 18.

I didnt know what we were trying to do, but I was told thats what we had to do, said Blauwkamp of his decision to shut down the 76-year-old company. I knew if we didnt have a line of credit, we had no way to operate.

Blauwkamp was grilled for nearly two hours in a US Bankruptcy Court hearing attended by some 50 creditors, their lawyers and a handful of the companys 280 former employees.

According to its bankruptcy petition, Lamar Construction Co. owed creditors $37.7 million while holding assets of $24.8 million.

Nervously chewing gum as he was questioned by creditors trustee Marcia Meoli, Blauwkamp cited the Fifth Amendments protection against self-incrimination on some questions regarding unpaid subcontractors.

Blauwkamp blamed the companys financial problems on its failure to keep track of change orders on a large contract in Greeley, Colorado.

He also painted a picture of a company that owed large sums to partnerships and entities, including himself and George Holmes, his partner and co-owner of Lamar Construction Co.

For example, Blauwkamp and Holmes were partners in Erector LLC, a Holland firm that owned the building that Lamar Construction built and rented as its headquarters for $40,000 a month. The pair also owned the Lamar Land Co., a Holland area industrial park with four undeveloped parcels.

Blauwkamp, who testified he was paid $300,000 a year, also said the company was paying the interest that he and Holmes owed to friends who lent them money to buy the company. The company also listed several unpaid debts to developers who defaulted on their loans.

Blauwkamp testified he and Holmes borrowed nearly $1.8 million when they bought the company for $2.4 million from its founders and their partners in 2007.

Since the company closed, Blauwkamp and Holmes also have filed for personal bankruptcy.

Blauwkamps testimony failed to impress four former employees who said they each are still owed $1,000 in back wages.

Although they have found work elsewhere, they said they feel cheated by the companys unwillingness to pay them for work they performed. About half of their former co-workers are still looking for work, they said.

Allendale resident Todd Johnson said he was on a job in Georgia when he was notified the company had closed on July 11. Johnson said he was forced to find his own way home.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.