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Berger Montague Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Chicago Title on Behalf of Investors in Champion-Cain/ANI Liquor License Lending Ponzi Scheme

DATE: November 7, 2019

Chicago Title Conspired with Gina Champion-Cain and ANI Development, LLC to Defraud Investors of Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

Champion-Cain Used Investor Money to Finance her Personal Businesses; Chicago Title Employees Received Cash Bribes, First Class Airfare, and Other Luxuries

Berger Montague’s Investigation is Ongoing; Defrauded Investors in the ANI Liquor License Lending Scheme are Urged to Immediately Contact Berger Montague, Proposed Class Counsel

SAN DIEGO—Berger Montague, a leading national litigation firm, has filed a class action lawsuit against Chicago Title Company and Gina Champion-Cain on behalf of investors who were defrauded in a $400 million Ponzi scheme.

For at least seven years, investors believed they were funding high-interest short-term loans to California liquor license applicants, which were supposedly held in secure escrow accounts managed by Chicago Title.

In reality, not a single dollar was used to invest in any liquor license applications. Instead, Champion-Cain used investors’ funds to prop up her numerous businesses, including restaurants, coffee shops, retail establishments, properties and “lifestyle” brands.

The scheme succeeded with the knowledge and assistance of Chicago Title and its two senior escrow officers, Della DuCharme and Betty Elixman. For their complicity, DuCharme and Elixman were rewarded with cash bribes, first class airfare, free meals and alcohol at Champion-Cain’s restaurants, baseball tickets, and lavish social events hosted by Champion-Cain.

“We have been investigating this matter since before the SEC announced its action against Champion-Cain.  Our investigation has included interviews with numerous defrauded investors as well as former Chicago Title and ANI employees who have inside knowledge of the fraud. The detailed complaint we filed confirms that Chicago Title was a knowing and active participant in the conspiracy. Through the class action filed this week, we are committed to securing justice for defrauded investors. We urge investors were victimized in this Ponzi-scheme or anyone with relevant information to contact us immediately,” said Benjamin Galdston, Co-Chair of Berger Montague’s Securities Department and Head of its San Diego Office. 

Champion-Cain began marketing investments through a California liquor license “lending platform” that would purportedly be used to make high-interest short-term loans to liquor license applicants. Investors were told that their funds would be held in secure escrow accounts with Chicago Title. Once the application was complete, investors would receive returns as high as 18 percent. If an application was denied, investors would receive their money back.

Investors were told that their only supposed risk was the “opportunity cost” of a denied application, because Chicago Title was a trusted, household name that claimed to provide strict safeguards and controls over their escrow accounts. Champion-Cain touted Chicago Title as a “very large, well-known,” escrow provider, stressing that investors’ money would never leave the Chicago Title escrow without investors’ permission.

In reality and unknown to investors, Champion-Cain used the Chicago Title escrow and investors’ funds as her own personal piggy bank. She diverted investors’ money to her company American National Investments to fund her other businesses.

A copy of investors’ class action complaint can be found at: www.bergermontague.com.

Berger Montague’s investigation remains ongoing. Defrauded investors and anyone with relevant information are urged to contact the head of Berger Montague’s San Diego office, Benjamin Galdston, at 691-489-0300, and Berger Montague attorneys, Michael Dell’Angelo and Barbara Podell, at 800-424-6690,215-875-3080 or 215-875-4690, or via email at bgaldston@bm.netmdellangelo@bm.net and bpodell@bm.net.

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