July 30, 2010
Young Israel of Beverly Hills Wins Suit; Family owes Shul $105,000
On July 27, lawyers for Young Israel of Beverly Hills (YIBH) successfully defended in court the judgment against Laurence, Susan and Samuel Mischel, bringing to a close a two-year public dispute over ownership of the shul’s building at 8701 W. Pico Blvd. The Mischels’ motions for reconsideration and for a new trial were denied, leaving in place a June 4 judgment that cancelled the family’s claims on the property.
The judgment returns the building back to YIBH. It requires the Mischels to pay back the $250,000 loan that they took out against YIBH’s building. The Mischels also owe YIBH a total of $105,236 in damages.
As reported in the Journal, http://www.jewishjournal.com/cover_story/article/who_owns_the_young_israel_of_beverly_hills_20100706/ the events leading up to the court’s decision took place in late 2008, when, over the course of three months, members of the Mischel family officially named themselves officers of YIBH, changed the name of the nonprofit from YIBH to “The Jewish Resource Center,” (JRC) and transferred title of the YIBH building to the renamed nonprofit. On Nov. 20, 2008, Laurence Mischel took out a loan of $250,000 in the name of JRC, using the building as collateral.
The Mischels claimed throughout the trial that Susan Mischel had been the last remaining officer of the YIBH board and therefore had legal standing to take these actions. Samuel Mischel, son of Susan and Laurence, who represented himself in court on Tuesday, reiterated this claim. Judge Irving Shimer denied both motions.
Laurence Mischel was also in court on Tuesday. Both Mischels said they plan to file an appeal.
“I don’t think their appeal will have much success,” said Gregory Hill, the attorney for Lone Oak, Inc., the company that made the loan to JRC and Laurence Mischel. “During the depositions, I asked each of them, ‘What did you intend to do with the money?’” Hill said. Hill thought that Susan Mischel had “good intentions,” and she mentioned in her deposition a few ideas for improving the shul. Samuel and Laurence, however, simply said that “they had plans,” but didn’t go into specifics.
Ultimately, the Mischels spent none of the money from the loan to improve the shul. “The day of the funding,” Hill said, “it all goes into personal accounts.” A document filed with the court shows that Samuel and Laurence Mischel wrote at least 20 different checks from the JRC bank account amounting to more than $177,000 to themselves, their other business entities, their family members and their legal representatives. At least one check was made out to cash, and more than $30,000 went to pay down debt on the Mischels’ personal credit cards.
The Mischels say that they were trying to avoid having the funds in the JRC account frozen by an injunction. They claim to have spent more than $250,000 on their court case.
YIBH current President Eli Attar, who was also in court on Tuesday, said he was happy with the result, but added that some members of the congregation are still on edge. He said he had been asked by an elderly YIBH member if the case was over. “I said, ‘Yes and no.’”
“A synagogue is your second home,” Attar continued, “and everyone is afraid of losing his home.”
The Mischels have 30 days to file an appeal. They are seeking new legal representation.