Judge rules Vikings owners committed fraud, racketeering

Adam Bettcher

A long-running New Jersey civil case came to an end this week when a judge ruled that Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf defrauded business partners out of millions on a real estate development.

A New Jesey judge ruled against Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt "Zygi" Wilf and his family's real estate development company in one of the state's longest running civil lawsuits on Monday. After 21 years in the courts, the judge ruled that the Wilfs had committed fraud, breach of contract, a breach of fiduciary duty and violating the state's civil racketeering statute, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Ada Reichmann of Toronto and her brother Josef Halpern of Brooklyn, the Wilf's former business partners, claimed the Zygi Wilf, his brother Mark and cousin Leonard used "organized-crime-type activities" to swindle them out of revenue from an apartment complex in Montville, NJ.

The original arrangement over the apartment building called for each of Reichmann and Halpern to receive a quarter of the revenues after 1990. The Wilfs used outsized interest charges, advertising costs and other "grossly disproportionate management fees" to cheat the partners out of their share, Judge Deanne Wilson found.

Said Judge Wilson:

"I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate. There was a consistent, pervasive method of removing funds so they would not reach the partners.

"The bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself."

The plaintiff sought a total of $51 million in the suit, which was originally filed in 1992. Judge Wilson will use the next two weeks to determine damages to be awarded.

The Wilfs are the latest members of the NFL ownership club to find themselves dealing with unwanted legal attention. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's truck stop company, Pilot Flying J, is under federal investigation for allegedly defrauding trucking companies out of millions in fuel discounts and rebates.

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