Ohio bribery attempt brought up in case of former Hilton
The seven-week-old bankruptcy case of Pittsburgh’s largest hotel turned ugly yesterday as attorneys for the former Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel’s lender grilled its on-site manager about his attempt to fix a court case in Youngstown 16 years ago.
BlackRock Financial Management Inc, the mortgage holder, is trying to foreclose on the hotel, which does not show a brand, and reflag it as a Hilton.
Shubh Hotels Pittsburgh LLC owns the hotel and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors on Sept. 7, a few days after Hilton Hotels & Resorts terminated the franchise license. BlackRock then began foreclosure proceedings and is demanding repayment of a $49.7 million loan Shubh used to buy the hotel in 2006.
After several hours of questioning yesterday, Frank Amedia, the hotel’s on-site manager, was suddenly asked:
“Did you not enter into a conspiracy to fix a court case in Mahoning County (Ohio)?” said Jeffrey Wilhelm, a Reed Smith attorney representing BlackRock. He referred to Amedia as “the bag man” in the incident, and said Amedia’s admission “demonstrates his dishonesty.”
The pointed question referred to Amedia’s testimony in 2001 that he tried to bribe a prosecutor in 1994 not to pursue charges against a Youngstown car dealer for rolling back odometers on vehicles.
Amedia admitted he helped arrange a payment of $250,000 through a prominent local businessman, Anthony Saadey. Amedia gave the money to Russell Saddey Jr., Anthony Saadey’s nephew, whom Amedia understood was an investigator for the Mahoning County prosecutor’s office.
Amedia was never charged in the incident and moved to Florida in 2000. He admitted the attempted bribery in 2001 under grant of immunity for testimony in the prosecution of Russell Saddey on racketeering and other charges.
“I didn’t ask for immunity; only that my family be protected,” said Amedia yesterday, holding back tears. He said his family members were subjected to “death threats” by mobsters involved in the incident, and noted he received no money for his role in the bribery attempt.
“This is a case of lender’s remorse,” attorney David Rudov, who represents Shubh, said in describing BlackRock. He said the lender just wants to get out of the 1.6 percent, interest-only loan to Shubh, foreclose on the hotel and resell it.
Amedia is the onsite hotel manager for Shubh, which is owned by Dr. Kiran Patel. A Tampa hotelier, philanthropist and former cardiologist, Patel bought all of Shubh Pittsburgh’s equity on Sept. 24. He has a deal with Wyndham Hotel Group to rebrand the hotel as the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, others tied to the financially troubled 712-room hotel are trying to avoid being forced to produce documents:
• Patel wants a court order to prevent BlackRock from obtaining what he said are recent privileged e-mails to and from Amedia and Jai Lalwani, formerly involved in the hotel management, and between attorneys and others involved in the hotel case.
• Lalwani is challenging BlackRock’s subpoenas for American Express account documents for Harris Mathis Jr., a Shubh executive who was involved in running the hotel, and for the PNC Bank records of his Black Diamond Hotel Super Group LLC and other entities.