Street impresario facing legal lagoon
- Last Updated: 12:09 AM, July 21, 2012
- Posted: 11:40 PM, July 19, 2012
Tommy Belesis, the colorful founder of John Thomas Financial, has found trouble in paradise.
Belesis, who made a name for himself with a walk-on role in Oliver Stone’s 2010 film, “Wall Street 2,” is enmeshed in a legal tiff in the Bahamas that his former business associate says could land him in hot water with the local authorities, The Post has learned.
The trouble started earlier this year when Belesis crafted a plan to take control of America West Resources, a penny-stock coal producer based in Salt Lake City.
Belesis, whose firm helped America West raise money and which owned a stake in the company, reached out to Gordon Mascarenhas, an Ontario-based financier, to assist on the deal.
It was a seemingly simple deal with startup costs of just $60,000 — but now threatens to turn into a headache with a hefty price tag.
Mascarenhas was asked by the New York money man to establish a shell company in the Bahamas, called AWSR, which would raise about $3 million to buy America West bank debt.
If and when the coal company debt was called, AWSR could force a restructuring and, according to a document related to the deal, take “operational control” of America West.
In late March, Belesis wired his partner $60,000 to get the deal going — including $10,000 to pay legal bills. But things began to sour almost immediately.
The $50,000 of investment cash never made it into AWSR’s bank account and no money was ever raised, Belesis claims.
Belesis claims he tried to get things going for weeks before giving up on Mascarenhas. In early May, Belesis demanded his money back.
But the troubled coal deal was only starting to muddy their relationship.
Mascarenhas said Belesis is to blame for the soured deal.
A Bahamas lawyer hired to shepherd the process through the island nation’s administrative red tape raised plenty of red flags, said Mascarenhas.
The lawyer, Tara Dorsette, tried to get legal information from Belesis — information needed to complete the legal and financial paperwork — but did not get it, according to Mascarenhas and documents reviewed by The Post.
Dorsette, who later resigned as AWSR’s lawyer, didn’t return a call for comment.
Mascarenhas said he also was growing queasy over Belesis’ plan to send profits from AWSR to a Cyprus entity owned by Belesis.
After weeks of not being able to push the deal forward or get his money back, Belesis filed a lawsuit on June 27 in Manhattan state court accusing Dorsette and Mascarenhas of fraud.
Less than a week later, on July 3, Mascarenhas returned legal fire in the Bahamas — claiming the AWSR deal may “constitute a suspicious transaction” in violation of the island’s various laws, including anti-money laundering, court papers show.
Mascarenhas also sent a complaint to the Central Bank of the Bahamas and said he would be contacting the Attorney General there.
Belesis’ lawyer, Robert Bursky, called Mascarenhas’ court filing “a perjurious affidavit by someone looking to deflect attention from his own misconduct.”
Bursky claims Mascarenhas tried to hijack the America West deal for himself and is trying to pin false charges on Belesis to cover up for his interference with Belesis’ efforts to get his money back
E-mails obtained by The Post do suggest Mascarenhas was largely concerned about losing money when he demanded Dorsette ignore Belesis’ request for an accounting of the $60,000.
“I intend to return all the funds advanced by him but because of his tortuous interference he may have destroyed the financing,” Mascarenhas wrote in late May.
“That may have cost me and my associates millions of dollars,” he wrote.
Edward Rodriguez, a former IRS official who is not a party to the dispute, was invited by the Post to give his opinion. He said that sending Bahamas profits to Cyprus is often a “red flag” for banks and regulators. “It’s not a normal business transaction,” he said.