LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Another civil lawsuit has been filed against the owners of the Berkshire Mall.
UG2 LLC filed a civil suit in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday alleging Kohan Retail Investment Group bilked the company out of $143,096 worth of janitorial services. The company further accuses owner Mehran Kohansieh of "deceptive business practices."
The complaint, filed by attorney Jonathan Allen from Peskin, Courchesne & Allen in Springfield, alleges that the Boston-based maintenance company had a contract in place from the previous owners. When Kohan Retail Investment Group purchased the property, operating under Berkshire Mall Realty Holdings, Kohan "assumed certain contractual obligations and liabilities" of the previous owners including the UG2 contract for janitorial and housekeeping services.
UG2 continued to honor the contract, which expires in August 2018, but Berkshire Mall Realty has not paid the bills, the complaint reads.
"Berkshire Mall has failed and refused to make any further payments on this account, leaving a balance due to the plaintiff from Berkshire Mall in the amount of $131,231.46," the complaint reads.
UG2 is adding in interest dating back to Oct. 31, 2016 — two months after Kohan purchased the property — for a total sum of $143,096.
Further, the complaint accuses Kohansieh of siphoning "away assets of Berkshire Mall for his own personal benefit and to the detriment of the plaintiff." The suit accuses Kohan of having "intentionally caused Berkshire Mall to fail to pay legitimate bills and invoices for janitorial and housekeeping services."
"The acts of Kohan in directing Berkshire Mall not to pay the bills and invoices operating while thinly or under capitalized and siphoning away assets constitute unfair and deceptive trade practices," Allen wrote in the complaint.
The suit is the second filed in Berkshire Superior Court against the mall. Earlier this year, the court issued an execution of judgment to the tune of $244,639.36 after the company was found to owe Petricca Construction for snowplowing.
"On or around October 26, 2016, Berkshire Realty and PCC entered into an agreement concerning the provision of services at the Berkshire Mall. According to the agreement, Petricca Construction Company agreed to provide snow removal services as well as services incidental to snow removal, including salting, at a property operated by Berkshire Realty known as the Berkshire Mall," read the docket filed in Berkshire Superior Court.
Just under a month ago in District Court, Maintenance Man Inc. was awarded a small claims judgment of $3,399.18. That was awarded after no one representing Kohan showed up in court.
The trend isn't much different what has been in seen in other malls throughout the country Kohan owns. The company bills itself as specializing in buying distressed malls, and has continued to purchase malls throughout the country — even when bills from individual malls were going unpaid. Some of the other malls have faced similar issues with unpaid bills — including the lights being turned off by the electric company at the Rotterdam Square Mall in New York State. Other Kohan-owned malls have fallen into such disrepair they have been ordered to be demolished.
Kohan has also faced issues with unpaid taxes for various malls he owns, including with the Berkshire Mall. With the Berkshire Mall, he has routinely fallen behind, caught back up, and then fallen behind again.
The Great Neck, N.Y., based company purchased the Berkshire Mall in September 2016 for $3.5 million. The mall's tenancy was down significantly and grew more dire when Macy's, Best Buy, and J.C. Penney followed one by one in announcing they were leaving the facility.
The mall is the largest taxpayer in the town of Lanesborough and its declining condition has raised alarms among town officials. The Baker Hill Road District, which manages the Connector Road, has asked the state for permission to purchase property so that it can seek ownership of the 717,000-square-foot mall. Kohan has seemingly been keeping up with the taxes enough to just barely avoid tax takings, which the Baker Hill Road District could have sought for a transfer of ownership.
While Kohan said he hoped to revitalize the mall when he purchased it, although many in town have said they haven't seen much effort in that direction.
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