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Fraud damages awarded in bitter New Jersey real-estate dispute

If one were to scan the National Football League standings, New Jersey would not appear. But New Jersey's absence there is actually a bit misleading.

After all, at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey plays host to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets. In addition, New Jersey natives Zygmunt (Zygi) and Mark Wilf are brothers who are the owners of the Minnesota Vikings. 

This week, a long-running real-estate fraud case involving the Wilfs and their former business partners was in the news again. A New Jersey judge made an award of a whopping $84.5 million to two former partners who sued the Wilf brothers and their cousin for allegedly cheating them out of money from a multi-unit apartment complex.

The judge had already ruled last month that the Wilfs had engaged in fraud for over 20 years by charging improper fees to the real-estate partnership. The conduct also involved breach of contract, the judge found, as well as breach of fiduciary duty.

The fees were classified as management fees. There were also unjustified interest payments, the judge found.

The Wilfs have said they will appeal the judge's ruling. A previous appellate court decision in the case, their attorneys said, had simply asked for an accounting of what was owed to whom. 

Now, after the judge's ruling this week, it is not only the question of compensatory damages that is on the table. There is also the question of punitive damages. More than $38 million of the damages awarded by the judge is classified as punitive damages.

The ruling also complicates the Wilf brothers' involvement in the construction of a new NFL football stadium in Minnesota. 

Source: Star-Ledger, "Judge Announces damages of $84.5 million against Wilfs in long-running lawsuit," Ben Horowitz, September 23, 2013

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