Michael Chera accuses former attorneys of overbilling to support “lavish lifestyles”

The Davidoff Hutcher & Citron lawyers represented him in an embezzlement suit
By Kathryn Brenzel | November 19, 2015 08:00AM

One man’s legal woes are another man’s key to fancy cars and watches — at least, according to Michael Chera’s new lawsuit against his former attorneys.

Chera, of Allied Property Group, is taking aim at his attorneys, Larry Hutcher and Gary Lerner of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, for allegedly over-billing him in order to support their “lavish lifestyle[s],” according to a complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on Monday. Hutcher and Lerner represented Chera in his lawsuit against Allied’s former comptroller, Alan Sills, his wife Janice, and Linda Romano, Chera’s former bookkeeper. That lawsuit, filed in September 2014, accused the trio of embezzlement and conspiracy.

Hutcher said Chera’s new lawsuit is “replete with lies.”

“It is the desperate rantings of a deadbeat client,” he told The Real Deal during a phone call with Lerner. “He’s only embarrassing himself, and we will show that all of these allegations are false by his own admission.”

Chera’s attorney, Jonathan Davidoff, could not immediately be reached for comment. Hutcher said the attorney has no relation to Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.

Over the last two years, Chera, who is related to Crown Acquisition’s Chera family, has been mired in legal battles with family members and former coworkers. In January 2014, his brother, Victor, sued him over an alleged default on $16 million in loans. Lerner represented Chera in the case.

In his lawsuit against DHC, Chera claims that the firm was vague about its billing practices and included “a significant amount of unnecessary work.” The lawsuit recounts one instance when Hutcher allegedly looked at a bill, turned to Lerner and told him that they needed to hike the bills “so he could have, among other things, nice watches like Chera.”

“My lavish lifestyle? I do admit that I have a lavish lifestyle, but he in no way contributes to it.”
Hutcher said. “It’s pure gibberish.”

He added, “Gary’s got a lavish lifestyle, living in a middle-class home in New Jersey.”

Chera also accuses Hutcher of “breaching his duty of loyalty” by wrongfully leaking news to The Real Deal about Allied’s sale of a building — 440 Fulton Street — to pay a tax bill. The article did not flatter Allied, the lawsuit states.

Ultimately, Chera paid the firm $179,116 for its services on the Sills case, and was billed an additional $130,887 for work that was allegedly outside the scope of their agreement, according to the complaint. When Chera refused to pay in July, the firm filed a lawsuit against him.

Chera is seeking $310,000 in damages with interests and attorneys costs and Allied, which is also listed as a plaintiff, is seeking at least $450,000.