A new lawsuit provides a behind-the-scenes look at why an 18,000-square-foot senior housing project in Chicago’s Chinatown was scrapped.
In a complaint filed August 17, the non-profit Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) accused Yman Huang Vien, its former president, of creating a rival entity that provides the same services as the CCBA under a nearly identical name — trading off the CCBA’s reputation in the Chinese community and derailing the housing project through unauthorized dealings.
The complaint charges Vien and the non-profit spin-off organization, Chicago Chinatown Bridgeport Alliance Service Center (CCBA SC) of unfair competition and usurping corporate opportunity.
Established in 1916, CCBA helps Chinese immigrants adjust to their new lives in Chicago and assists families that have language barriers.
The Chicago Plan Commission approved plans in December 2016 for the CCBA to build a seven-story housing development for senior citizens. Located from 246 to 262 West 22nd Place the project would have included 92 housing units and a community center.
Vien pushed for the formation of CCBA SC when CCBA, which had undertaken the senior housing development, was under an IRS audit, the suit alleges. The sister non-profit corporation would acquire the real estate for the project in case CCBA lost its not-for-profit status, according to the complaint.
But after the CCBA concluded its audit by the IRS and maintained its non-for-profit corporation status, CCBA SC obtained a $15 million commercial loan collateralized by CCBA assets without proper approval of the CCBA board, according to the suit.
After objecting to the terms of the loan provided by International Bank of Chicago, which required Vien to remain the lifetime president of the CCBA, the CCBA board decided not to pursue the housing development.
The lawsuit further alleges that Vien signed two CCBA checks totaling $169,200 payable to Vari Architects for work on the project, also without approval of the CCBA board.
After CCBA bailed on the project, the suit alleges that Vien “covertly” reconfigured CCBA SC that is competitive with the CCBA, attending community events and fundraising under the conspicuously similar moniker.
The plaintiff is seeking judgement on six separate counts. It is seeking a dissolution of the CCBA SC, permanent prevention of defendants from using the names CCBA, CCBA SC or similar names, an order for defendants to return all CCBA property to the plaintiff and unspecified monetary damages.
The CCBA, CCBA SC and Yman Huang Vien didn’t respond to requests for comment.