Export couple seeks $30 million for property they claim taken improperly from home
A former Hempfield couple whose residence was foreclosed upon in 2008 while they served time in federal prison for financial crimes want to be repaid $30 million for sensitive business property they claimed was improperly taken from their home.
Testimony began Wednesday in the civil suit brought by Srikanth Raghunathan and his wife, Padmasheri Sampathkumar, now of Export, who claim computer records, patents and other intellectual property from their nanotechnology company were confiscated as part of the foreclosure of their Lorenzo Lane home in Hempfield.
According to the lawsuit, the couple contends Chase Home Finance improperly foreclosed on the home and took their property, which included clothes, appliances, jewelry and proprietary information pertaining to their company that specialized in nanomaterials. The financially-troubled company held government contracts to provide its technology for military purposes, they said.
The trial before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Harry Smail is expected to take about two weeks.
Raghunathan and Sampathkumar want a Westmoreland County jury to award them the $30 million they say the missing materials are worth.
The couple served federal prison sentences after the 2006 convictions for financial crimes including falsifying loan documents from several lending institutions. Raghunathan served 52 months in federal prison, while his wife was sentenced to 40 months. They were also sentenced to repay 32 lenders $10.7 million.
In the lawsuit, the couple claims they were unable to arrange for the property to be removed from the home. Chase foreclosed on the property for failure to make mortgage payments.
The couple contend Chase and Safeguard Properties, the private company hired to clean out the home after the foreclosure, discarded sensitive business information and property including computers, software and other company records.
John Giselson, the attorney for Chase, told jurors the company took no property from the home after it was sold in 2008 at a sheriff’s sale.
“This is a fantastical story, not based on common sense,” Giselson said.
He argued Raghunathan and Sampathkumar arranged for family and friends to enter the home while they were incarcerated to remove personal property. An estate sale was conducted at their direction and netted the couple $14,000, Giselson said.
He suggested the lawsuit and damages demand is a means for the couple to raise cash to pay the court-ordered restitution from their decade-old criminal case.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.