The owner of an Elmsford construction company claims he was swindled in a real estate development racket.
Elliott Porco, owner of Construction Directions LLC, sued three men and their companies for $1.4 million for alleged violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in White Plains federal court on June 29.
He and his company accuse the men of conspiring to gain his trust “by creating compelling background stories and fictional expertise in connection with real estate development offerings.”
On the same day that Porco, of Eastchester, sued the men, he was accused in a separate lawsuit of failing to pay nearly $500,000 to a subcontractor.
Porco’s lawsuit names Thomas DiOrio of Katonah; Frank DeBoise and Craig Greene, whose addresses are unknown; and six limited liability corporations. DiOrio did not immediately respond to a voicemail message asking for his side of the story.
Porco says that when he met the men in 2014, DiOrio said they were looking for a partner for projects in New York and Florida.
They allegedly offered to hire Porco for a $1.8 million excavation and foundation job in Brooklyn, and Porco agreed to pay an insurance premium. But the project never happened, and Porco lost $153,000.
DiOrio also persuaded Porco in 2014 to invest in a $51.6 million apartment complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the complaint states, and promised him an equity stake in the companies that would own the apartments.
The developers allegedly said they would need more funds as costs came in during construction. Porco wired three checks totaling $37,500.
Nothing was built, the complaint states, and Porco was never given an ownership interest in anything.
“Defendants simply took plaintiffs’ money and disappeared,” the complaint states, “once plaintiffs stopped wiring funds.”
The Tampa project, as depicted in the lawsuit, was the biggest score. DiOrio allegedly pitched a hotel and condominium project as a “done deal.” All that was needed was $500,000 to close on the land.
He asked Porco for $150,000. In return, Porco would get 10 percent ownership of the project and 10 percent of the construction management fee. Construction Directions would get a $25 million contract for window work.
In November 2014, Porco wired $150,000 to a company set up for the project.
DiOrio allegedly asked for more funds over the following months, and Porco complied: $20,000 for architectural drawings, $4,000 for legal expenses, $37,000 as a loan for permits and attorney fees, $12,500 for closing expenses, $3,000 to cover interest payments owed to another investor, $1,000 for project costs, and $15,000 as additional capital.
Finally, last December, DeBoise allegedly asked for another $50,000. Porco declined.
DiOrio, Greene and DeBoise had repeatedly represented the project as ongoing, the complaint states, and investment returns as forthcoming. Delays were blamed on Tampa’s permitting process, lenders’ need for documents and funding needed for separate contracts.
But no land had been purchased. Nothing was built. No ownership interests were conveyed.
Instead, Porco alleges, the developers rolled his money into real estate projects to which he was not privy.
Porco’s attorney, Stephen A. Florek III in White Plains, charges the developers with running a racketeering enterprise, under the RICO law, and fraud and breach of contract. Porco and his company claim out-of-pocket losses of $435,000 and seek another $1 million in punitive damages.
On the same day that Porco sued the developers, Men of Steel Rebar Fabricators LLC sued him in Westchester Supreme Court.
The Bensalem, Pennsylvania, company claims that Porco’s Construction Directions hired it in 2016 to install steel rebar and reinforcing steel for a project at Lighthouse Point in Staten Island.
Men of Steel claims that Porco has refused to pay $491,976 owed for the materials and services. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Carol A. Sigmond and Gary J. Repke in Manhattan, accuses Porco and his company of breach of contract, and it is filed as a class action on behalf of all subcontractors and material suppliers for the project.
Attempts to reach Porco for comment failed, as two phone numbers listed in his name were not working.