Amiel Cueto seeks $98.5 million over busted land deal

By Steve Gonzalez | Jul 9, 2008

Amiel Cueto

Amiel Cueto filed a 31-count complaint in St. Clair County Circuit Court against 11 defendants for their alleged roles in a failed $9 million land deal on riverfront property he owned in East St. Louis.

Representing himself, Cueto, a disbarred lawyer, claims that from 1996 through September 2007, he owned approximately 31 acres of East St. Louis riverfront property bordered by Front Street and Missouri Avenue.

According to Cueto, defendant Lester J. Petty and Associates entered into negotiations to buy the land in 2004 which were ongoing into 2005.

The project for which the land was to be purchased was called "Grandview Plaza and Towers," according to the suit.

Cueto claims that on June 6, 2005, defendants United Capital Lending, Kevin Gleaton, United Medical Bank, United Federal Mortgage and American Bank Holdings issued a formal commitment to provide a construction loan to Petty to buy the land.

Cueto alleges that on June 10, 2005, defendant Wells Fargo Investments indicated that if he would agree to sell the land for $8 million, it would provide financing to Petty in the form of an irrevocable commitment to issue a letter of credit for more than enough to cover the purchase price.

According to Cueto, he and Petty completed an escrow closing on June 10, 2005, with the purchase price of $8 million to be paid to him within "ten or twelve days."

Cueto claims that, despite repeated assurances, the money had not been paid by June 29, 2005. The following day, Cueto alleges he was promised by Wells Fargo Investments that $8 million would be wired to Guaranty Title Company on July 1, 2005. Wells Fargo later promised that the $8 million would be sent on July 8, 2005, the suit claims.

In the meantime, Cueto claims a group represented by Demond Williams and Associates also negotiated in June, July and August 2005 to buy the land for $8 million, and submitted a written offer to that effect.

Cueto claims he wrote all of the defendants in the lawsuit-which in addition to those mentioned previously include Wells Fargo and Company, Wells Fargo Bank, Oracle Capital Holding Company, and Lana L. Carter-a letter on July 13, 2005, in which he told them he would enter into the contract to sell to the other buyer (Demond Williams and Associates) unless he received the promised $8 million purchase price.

Cueto claims he was contacted by Carter, acting for herself and on behalf of the other defendants, and asked him not to sell the land to the other buyer and promised that he would receive payment by July 18, 2005.

According to Cueto, he did receive an $8 million check from Petty but it could not be cashed due to insufficient funds, causing negotiations between Cueto and the defendants to continue until Aug. 2, 2005.

Cueto claims that on Aug. 2, 2005, he entered into a written contract with Lester Petty and Lana Carter, which was reduced to writing on Aug. 3, 2005, that included a sale price of $9 million for the land, prompting him to reject the offer from Demond Williams.

"The $9,000,000.00 sale price was never delivered," Cueto wrote.

Cueto claims he diligently tried to mitigate his damages through September 2007 by trying to sell the land and by taking various steps in furtherance of those efforts.

Cueto alleges he had used the land to secure mortgage loans from West Pointe Bank totaling $1,609,144 as of Oct. 17, 2007.

Cueto claims that in early 2007, Commerce Bank acquired West Pointe and thereafter called Cueto's loans, which forced him to sell the land for $1,609,144 on Oct. 17, 2007.

He claims Wells Fargo Investments violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by engaging in deceptive acts or practices by falsely promising to provide financing or credit or loans or financial products or services to facilitate the $9 million purchase of the land.

Cueto also claims Wells Fargo Investments intended him to rely on the deceptions and that he did so, which caused him to suffer actual damages of $7,390,855.10, the difference between the $9 million sale price and the $1,609,144 duress-sale price.

In addition to compensatory damages, Cueto is seeking punitive damages "equal to nine times the amount of actual damages and attorney's fees assessed at 1/3 of the total of actual damages plus punitive damages," according to the suit.

Cueto also asserts claims against Wells Fargo Investments for common law fraud and detrimental reliance/promissory estoppel seeking the same compensatory damages as the Consumer Fraud Act claim. The common law fraud claim also seeks punitive damages equal to nine times the amount of the compensatory damages.

Containing a total of 31 counts, Cueto's complaint asserts the same three causes of action against all of the defendants except Lester J. Petty and Associates, Inc. The sole count against Petty seeks $7,390,855.10 for breach of contract to buy the land.

08 L 289 (20th Circuit)

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