Developer sues lawyer over casino-hotel stock

Developer Ralph A. DeChiaro has filed a lawsuit accusing a prominent Baltimore real estate attorney of wrongfully taking shares of stock related to a $35 million Dominican Republic hotel and casino complex they developed.

In a suit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, Mr. DeChiaro said that William L. Siskind took the stock out of an escrow account and spirited it to the Dominican Republic under the pretext of arranging to sell it. Another developer who owns a large portion of the stock, Steven Vincent, is not a party to the lawsuit.


Mr. Siskind dismissed Mr. DeChiaro's legal action as nothing more than bad blood between the partners. The ill will stems from an unrelated matter, he said, declining to elaborate.

"The only thing that I have to say with that is, I did what we all agreed to do," Mr. Siskind, 66, said. "I think when the facts come out, they'll all see that. I didn't do anything improper."


Mr. Siskind is accused in the lawsuit of breach of contract and of breaching his fiduciary responsibilities to Mr. DeChiaro and Mr. Vincent.

The disputed stock is from three Dominican holding companies Mr. DeChiaro, Mr. Siskind and Mr. Vincent formed six years ago when they built the Jaragua Hotel. The Jaragua is located in Santo Domingo and contains a casino.

The developers used two properties owned by Mr. DeChiaro -- a Baltimore apartment complex, Pickwick East, and a North Carolina office building -- as collateral for an $8 million construction loan from Maryland National Bank.

When the Jaragua's financial performance failed to meet their expectations, Mr. DeChiaro, Mr. Siskind and Mr. Vincent agreed to put it up for sale.

Mr. DeChiaro and Mr. Siskind agree that Ramada International wants to buy the Jaragua. They also agree that in August, Mr. Siskind was to have the stock transferred to the Dominican Republic, where it had been issued, to facilitate a sale to Ramada International.

They disagree about what happened after the stock was taken from the escrow account in Baltimore. Mr. DeChiaro claims that Mr. Siskind refuses to bring the stock back from the Dominican Republic.

"I filed a lawsuit to get certain stock back that he [Mr. Siskind] took, that's all," said Mr. DeChiaro, 78, who in 1974 headed a syndicate that tried to buy the Baltimore Orioles. "Right now, we want the stock returned. We [Mr. DeChiaro, Mr. Siskind and Mr. Vincent] all owe the obligation to the bank.

Mr. Siskind said he was unaware there was a time limit on returning the stock to escrow.


"I didn't rush to take it right away," he said. "I had to show" Ramada International that the group was "ready, willing and able" to sell the Jaragua, Mr. Siskind said.

The case is scheduled to be heard May 1 before Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan.