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Lynch v. Amoruso

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 8, 2017

Michael A. Lynch et al., Plaintiffs,
Sreelekha Amoruso, et al., Defendants.


          ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Michael Lynch and Lisa Scarola, acting pro se, have filed a complaint alleging that various defendants engaged in a RICO conspiracy to swindle Carlton Lynch - Michael's father and Lisa's uncle - out of his home and other property. They also assert that the defendants violated Carlton Lynch's civil rights. Before the Court are two motions to dismiss, one brought by Defendants Sreelekha Chakrabarty Amoruso and Amoruso & Amoruso, LLP, and another brought by Defendants DeMille Halliburton, Camille Halliburton Huang, and Marshall Posner. Dkt Nos. 50, 58. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motions to dismiss.

         I. Facts

         The following facts are taken from the amended complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion.

         The allegations in this case surround the disposition of property owned by a man named Carlton Lynch. Carlton[1] was the father of Plaintiff Michael Lynch and the uncle of Plaintiff Lisa Scarola. See Amend. Compl. at 2, 7 (Dkt No. 42). Carlton was married to Camille Lynch, Michael's stepmother. See Amend. Compl. at 2, 4. Prior to his death in 2015, Carlton's assets consisted of a home located in New York and personal property equaling approximately $200, 000. See Amend. Compl. at 2, 7.

         The defendants in this case are either relatives of Carlton or attorneys involved in the disposition of Carlton's property. Defendants Halliburton and Huang are Camille's children and Carlton's stepchildren. Amend. Compl. at 3-8; Ex. A (Dkt No. 42-1). Defendant Amoruso is an attorney at Defendant Amoruso & Amoruso, LLP, the law firm that helped Carlton convey his home to his wife before his death. Amend. Compl. at 2-3. Defendant Michael Posner is an estate attorney who represented the Halliburton children during the execution of Carlton's will. Amend. Compl. at 8.

         Plaintiffs allege that these defendants took a variety of actions to "defraud" Carlton out of his property. Amend. Compl. at 2. Many of the allegations in the complaint surround Carlton's home in New York. At some point before he died, Carlton conveyed this home to his wife, Camille. Amend. Compl. at 2-3. The Amoruso Defendants helped facilitate this transfer, including by suggesting the conveyance in the first place and notarizing the deed. Amend. Compl. at 2-3. According to Plaintiffs' allegations, Carlton Lynch did not actually want to convey his home. Amend. Compl. at 4; Opp. at 2 (Dkt No. 56). Rather, the defendants allegedly took advantage of Carlton's "severe Alzheimer's" by "illegally notarizing" the deed to Carlton's house and then "mailing the illegally notarized deed" to an address not specified in the complaint. Amend. Compl. at 2-3. Defendant Huang allegedly furthered the conspiracy to illegally convey Carlton's home purportedly by making "numerous . . . false statements" in order to hide the forged transfer. Amend. Compl. at 6. The amended complaint alleges that, as of February 2013, Michael "had full rights to his father's property in the event that Carlton Lynch's wife died." Amend. Compl. at 2. In other words, the amended complaint alleges that if the illegal conveyance had not occurred, Michael would have received Carlton's home.

         The amended complaint further alleges that the defendants stole additional property from Carlton. Taking advantage of Carlton's "severe Alzheimer's" and Camille's "dementia, " Defendants purportedly stole "all of Carlton Lynch's money." Amend. Compl. at 2-3. According to the allegations, Defendants Halliburton and Huang stole the money, and the Amoruso Defendants then hid it by creating "various trusts." Amend. Compl. at 3. The amended complaint does not elucidate how much was stolen or who ultimately received the stolen funds. The amended complaint does allege, however, that in order to avoid getting caught, Halliburton and Huang kidnapped Carlton and held him hostage in Arizona. Amend. Compl. at 5-6.

         The amended complaint alleges that Carlton died, but it does not identify when. See Amend. Compl. at 8.[2] Camille died at some unspecified point prior to Carlton. See Amend. Compl. at 4-5. Carlton's home was not part of the estate, as it had been previously transferred to Camille. Amend. Compl. at 3, 6. The validity of Carlton's will and the division of his assets was approved by the Westchester County Surrogate's Court. Amoruso Ex. D (Dkt No. 51-4).

         On February 18, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a pro se complaint. Dkt No. 1. The defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint. Dkt Nos. 24, 30. The Court then sua sponte provided Plaintiffs with leave to amend their complaint in response to the motions. Dkt No. 36. On May 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint. Dkt No. 42. Defendants renewed their motions to dismiss, with the Amoruso Defendants filing their motion to dismiss on June 10, 2016, see Dkt No. 50, and Defendants Halliburton, Huang, and Posner filing their motion to dismiss on June 22, 2016, Dkt No. 58. The Court now resolves both of these motions to dismiss.

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         A court evaluating a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) must "accept all allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the non-moving party's favor." LaFaro v. N.Y.Cardiothoracic Grp., PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). This tenet, however, does not apply to "legal conclusions" in a complaint, and "mere conclusory statements" do not satisfy the pleading standards. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Even when a plaintiff provides substantial factual detail, dismissal is appropriate if "the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558.

         "Where, as here, the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally to raise the strongest arguments it suggests." Walker v. Schult, 717 F.3d 119, 124 (2d Cir. 2013) (citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted). "Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief." Id. A court may dismiss a pro se complaint if it is clear that the plaintiffs cannot demonstrate a set of facts that would entitle them to relief. Weixel v. Bd. of Educ., 287 F.3d 138, 145 (2d Cir. 2002).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiffs' pro se amended complaint fails to clearly assert any particular causes of action. Reading the amended complaint liberally, the Court infers that Plaintiffs are attempting to bring a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") cause of action and a § 1983 constitutional claim. See Amend. Compl. at 1. As explained below, the Court concludes that the amended complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief can be granted, and the Court accordingly grants both motions to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

         A. Plaintiffs Have Not ...

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