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PAPPAS v. PASSIAS

June 5, 1995

ANTHONY PAPPAS, Plaintiff, against GEORGE PASSIAS, DEMETRIOS COUCOUZES a/k/a ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS, ANTHIMOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS a/k/a BISHOP ALEXIOS, ATHENA BELTECAS, GEORGE BIRBILIS, PAUL CAVOUNIS, TRACY DEMOS, GREGORY FEGOS, RENOS GEORGIOU, CELE IOANNOU a/k/a CECILIA IOANNOU, DORA LAGOS, SPIRO PAPADOPOULOS, LEONIDAS PAPALAS, FRIDERIKI PAPPAS, VAN PAPPAS, ALEXANDER PRITSOS, ALICE RIGAS, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA, INC., ST. NICHOLAS GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH OF FLUSHING, INC., CLOUD TOURS, INC., CONSTANTINE DESIGNERS & BUILDERS, LTD., GREGORY FEGOS ELECTRIC CO., INC., RENO GENERAL CONSTRUCTION CORP., CHRIS ARLIS a/k/a CHRYSANTHE ARLIS, MICHAEL CAPOUS, PAUL CONDILES, ANASTASIOS DIACOVASILIS, HARRY KALOGIANNIS, MAUREEN PAPALAS, THEODORE PERDIK, KIKI SAKLABANAKIS, GLORIA SFIROUDIS, NICHOLAS TSESMELIS, JOHN TSOLIS, ANTONIA ANASTASIOU, WILLIAM SPYROPOULOS SCHOOL, PARENT-TEACHER ASSOCIATION OF THE WILLIAM SPYROPOULOS SCHOOL, ST. NICHOLAS GREEK ORTHODOX YOUTH ASSOCIATION, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOANNA SEYBERT

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 In this case, plaintiff Anthony Pappas brings a pro se civil RICO action pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c) against various persons associated with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America and South America [hereinafter, the "Archdiocese"], and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New York [hereinafter, the "St. Nicholas Church"], of which the plaintiff is a member. The plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that the defendants (i) misappropriated funds from various organizations affiliated with the Archdiocese (including the Archdiocese), (ii) wrongfully deprived him of the opportunity to run for an elected position on the parish council of the St. Nicholas Church, and (iii) caused him emotional distress by publishing false statements about him, and by attempting to prevent his daughter from being promoted from nursery school to kindergarten. In addition to his RICO claims, the plaintiff asserts pendent state-law claims for violations of the New York Religious Corporation statute, libel and defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and a breach of fiduciary duty.

 The defendants now move to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff, in turn, requests leave to file an amended complaint in the event that the defendants' motions are granted. For the reasons that follow, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice to permit the plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

 BACKGROUND

 The plaintiff alleges a number of acts of misconduct on the part of the defendants, the most cogent of which are described below. According to the plaintiff's complaint, the Archdiocese, on or about November 24, 1980, purchased approximately 29 acres of land in Westchester County, New York, and thereafter, on or about September 26, 1983, purchased an additional 22 acres of land adjacent thereto [hereinafter, referred to collectively as the "Westchester Properties"]. See Complaint PP 56-57. By the end of 1986, the Archdiocese had expended approximately ten million dollars in connection with the acquisition, construction, and development of these properties. See id. PP 61-62. These expenditures were authorized by Chris Demetriades, *fn1" who served as the Director of Economic Development for the Archdiocese, see id. PP 50, 58, 61, and was acting pursuant to authority conferred upon him by codefendant Archbishop Iakovos, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese. See id. PP 51, 61.

 The plaintiff alleges that a substantial amount of funds disbursed by Demetriades in connection with the Westchester Properties was not properly accounted for, and in fact was used to fund the personal projects of Demetriades and his company, Demetriades Developers, Inc. [hereinafter "DDI"]. See id. PP 63-64. According to the complaint, Demetriades' failure to segregate the funds belonging to the Archdiocese was revealed through an investigation conducted during 1992 and 1993 by the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse. See id. P 65.

 In early 1987, after having failed in its attempt to sell the Westchester Properties during the period between July and December 1986, the Archdiocese entered into a contract to sell the Westchester Properties to DDI. See id. PP 66-67. Notification of this proposed sale was announced by the Archdiocese in a number of press releases. See id. PP 68-69. On or about March 23, 1987, the Archdiocese commenced a proceeding in the Supreme Court, County of Westchester, to obtain court approval for the sale. See id. P 70. Court approval was granted, and on May 18, 1987, the Archdiocese and DDI closed the sale for the Westchester Properties. See id. P 71.

 In August 1990, the Archdiocese acceded to a request by DDI to modify a mortgage financing provision of the contract of sale. In addition, in early 1992, the Archdiocese released DDI of certain material obligations under the sales contract. Court approval was not sought for either of these modifications. According to the plaintiff, these transactions are under investigation by the New York State Attorney General's office. See id. PP 72-74. The plaintiff further alleges that these transactions were not properly reported in the Archdiocese's financial statements, which were mailed to its members as part of its annual yearbook. See id. P 121.

 According to the plaintiff, substantial expressions of disapproval within the Greek Orthodox Church followed the disclosure of the 1990 and 1992 modifications to the 1987 contract of sale. These concerns bolstered a burgeoning reform movement spearheaded by a group called the Orthodox Christian Laity [hereinafter, the "OCL"], which since 1989, had sought greater laity involvement in civil matters affecting the governance of the Greek Orthodox Church, and in particular, greater financial accountability with respect to the Church's real estate transactions with Chris Demetriades and his company. See id. PP 76-77.

 The plaintiff alleges that, in response to this call for reform, the Archdiocese undertook a campaign to discredit the OCL's members, including the plaintiff. This campaign included (i) the publication of defamatory statements impugning the plaintiff, (ii) the directing of a security guard forcibly to remove the plaintiff from the grounds of the St. Nicholas Church to prevent him from disseminating his views, and (iii) the disqualification of the plaintiff, in December 1992, as a candidate for the parish council of the St. Nicholas Church. See id. P 84.

 Turning now to the plaintiff's specific allegations, the plaintiff alleges that, in November 1992, he was nominated to become a candidate for the parish council of the St. Nicholas Church. According to the plaintiff, in December 1992, Archbishop Iakovos and George Passias (the head priest of the St. Nicholas Church) caused to be mailed to an estimated 2,000 church members a written statement which read:

 
Due to the fact that only seven canonical candidates have been nominated for seven vacant seats on the Parish Council, there will be no elections, as is usually the case, on December 13, 1992. The candidates will automatically take those seats which have been vacated this year.

 Id. P 124. The plaintiff alleges that the foregoing statement was false, and known to be false by both Iakovos and Passias, since each was aware that the plaintiff had been nominated for the parish council as an eighth candidate. See id. P 125. Rather, this measure, which effectively nullified the plaintiff's candidacy, was initiated in response to the plaintiff's requests for financial accountability. See id. PP 165-166. The elections for the parish ...


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