The co-creator of Saban Entertainment and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers says his partner in newly launched content company WonderFish Media is a con man, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Shuki Levy says his lawsuit against Michael Pellegrino is "a cautionary tale for anyone who is considering entering into a business venture with a silver tongued Svengali."
According to the complaint filed Nov. 22 by attorney Alex Weingarten, Levy met Pellegrino through a trusted mutual acquaintance and the two launched WonderFish as a joint venture to create and sell content. As the company's two controlling managers, Levy would create the programming and Pellegrino would handle business affairs.
"What Shuki did not know at the time, however, was that Michael is a convicted con and fraud, who, inter alia, was convicted and imprisoned in 1999 for impersonating an FBI agent and, upon his release from prison, pretended to be the grandson of the infamous mafia don Carlo Gambino in order to peddle a fabricated tell-all book," writes Weingarten in the complaint.
Now, Levy claims Pellegrino stole money from WonderFish, failed to secure investors and fell behind on the company's taxes and rent, among other complaints.
"Beginning as early as August 2015 and no later than April 2016, Michael began withdrawing and misappropriating funds from WonderFish's checking account for his own personal use," Weingarten writes. "In total, based on a recent review of bank records, Michael has pilfered more than $1 million from WonderFish, spending the company's money on airline tickets, dinners out, shopping, and gambling."
When Levy discovered the theft in October, he demanded Pellegrino return the money - but, according to the complaint, Pellegrino refused and suggested he receive a payoff of $1.2 million to settle the dispute.
Levy is suing Pellegrino for breach of fiduciary duty, corporate waste, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and fraud, among other claims.
Martin Singer, who represents Pellegrino, responded in a statement: "The outrageous lawsuit filed by Shuki Levy against Michael Pellegrino is completely specious. Mr. Levy was well aware that Mr. Pellegrino was intending to sue him and approximately two weeks ago, Mr. Levy's representatives requested that the parties attempt to settle the dispute, knowing that Mr. Pellegrino intended to sue Mr. Levy and others for fraud, conversion and breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims. Instead of responding to the settlement proposal, Mr. Levy filed this preemptive bogus suit. We will promptly assert my client's affirmative claims and are confident that my client will prevail in this dispute."