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The Alphas Co. of New York Inc. v. The Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 9, 2017

The Alphas Company of New York Inc. et al., Plaintiffs
v.
The Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative, Inc. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREW L. CARTER, JR., United States District Judge.

         This action arises out of a wholesale food distribution business formerly operated by the Alphas Company of New York, Inc. (the "Alphas Company" or "Company") at the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market (the "Market"). Plaintiff Peter Alphas, on behalf of the Company and himself, brings this action against the cooperative who operates the Market, the union who provides employees to the cooperative members, and various attorneys employed by the cooperative and union, who engaged in litigation against Alphas and the Company. Alphas alleges two federal causes of action, a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") and conspiracy to violate RICO, and eight state law claims.

         Defendants can be divided into five groups. The "Union Defendants" are the Local 202 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and five union representatives. Fifth Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29-34. The "Hunts Point Defendants" are the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association, Inc. ("Hunts Point Co-op"), which operates the Market, and its board members, officers, and agents. Id. ¶¶ 11 -28, 36, 40-41. The "Attorney Defendants" are Michael Shapiro, general counsel to Hunts Point Co-op; Julian S. Kaufman, counsel to Hunts Point Co-op; and the Law Offices of Rogers, Wughalter, and Kaufman, a law firm retained by Hunts Point Co-op. Id. ¶¶ 35, 37-38. The final Defendant is Thomas J. Bia ("Bia"), a New York City Marshal. Id. ¶ 39.

         All Defendants have asserted a variety of grounds in support of the dismissal of the amended complaint. On March 31, 2017, this Court granted all of the Defendants' motions to dismiss. The Court now sets forth the reasons why.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs Amended Complaint, as well as documents of which the Court may take judicial notice.[1]

         Peter Alphas is the sole shareholder of the Alphas Company of New York Inc., a domestic corporation that conducts wholesale food packing and distribution around New York City. The Alphas Company is currently in bankruptcy and under the control of a trustee for the United States Bankruptcy Court. Id. ¶ 9. In 2001, Hunts Point Co-op and the Alphas Company entered into a lease for the Alphas Company's use and occupancy. Id. ¶ 47. The Alphas Company was a success until Alphas had to hire union employees due to the harassment by the Union Defendants. Thereafter in 2005, Alphas terminated the employment of all but one union member from the Alphas Company, and the Union Defendants responded by pressuring Alphas into hiring more union employees or selling the Alphas Company's leased units to a "crony of Defendant[']s at an undervalued amount." Id. ¶ 53. Alphas had to seek additional capital to keep the Company afloat but was unable to procure any financing due to statements made by one or more of the Defendants about the creditworthiness, competence, and character of Alphas. Consequently, Alphas had to invest his own personal funds to keep the Alphas Company afloat.

         All the while, the Alphas Company was engaged in litigation with Hunts Point and Union Defendants and non-parties related to the eviction of Alphas Company from the Market, its failure to make payments into the union's "Pension & Health Fund, " and its improper withdrawal from the union. Id. ¶¶ 59, 61, 63, 72, 73, 85, 76. In the midst of the litigation pertaining to the eviction of the Alphas Company, around May 6, 2013, certain of the Hunts Point and Union Defendants dumped all inventory and personal property from the leased units into the trash and blocked Alphas and the Company employees from accessing the leased units. Id. ¶ 78. Defendant Bia was "induced by the" other Defendants into taking Alphas' or the Alphas Company's property. Id. ¶ 100. The Defendants' actions-allegedly illegal eviction of Plaintiff, barring access to the Company's leased properties, dumping of property, litigation against Alphas and the Company, and discouragement and prevention of customers, suppliers, and potential financiers from doing business with Alphas and the Company-were all done to pressure Alphas to sell his leased units in the cooperative or run a union shop.

         On March 4, 2014, the Alphas Company commenced a proceeding under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. See in re The Alphas Company of New York, Inc., 1:14-bk-10510 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y.) ECF No. 1. The Alphas Company later sought to convert and did convert the bankruptcy proceeding to one under Chapter 7. Id. ECF Nos. 22, 29. On June 5, 2014, the Trustee, John Pereira, was appointed to take charge of the Alphas Company's affairs. Id. ECF No. 30.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Alphas and the Company commenced this action on January 9, 2014. Alphas subsequently discharged his attorneys and began representing himself pro se. Alphas has amended the complaint multiple times and all Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaints multiple times. In addition, there have been multiple joint stipulations of dismissal with or without prejudice between John S. Pereira, as Chapter 7 trustee for the Alphas Company, and certain defendants. See ECF Nos. 161, 239, 241. After the last stipulation that was filed on August 18, 2016, ECF No. 241, the Court requested the parties amend the pleadings, motions papers, opposition papers, and reply papers as necessary to reflect the status of the case, while terminating all pending motions. ECF No. 242.

         Subsequently, Alphas filed the Fifth Amended Complaint ("FAC"), which was identical to the Fourth Amended Complaint, and all the Defendants renewed their motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and to the extent applicable to certain defendants, 12(b)(5).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a claim must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to show "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp.,482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). However, the court need not credit "mere conclusory statements" or "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 681 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The complaint must provide factual allegations ...


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