Former Tipitina's Owner Reportedly Being Investigated By FBI
Ronald Von Kurnatowski is facing multiple lawsuits with some victims accusing him of operating a Ponzi scheme.
The FBI has reportedly launched a probe into former Tipitina's owner Roland Von Kurnatowski over an alleged ponzi scheme with victims that include his own relatives, a Catholic priest and a retired weatherman, according to a TV news station in New Orleans.
In December, Von Kurnatowski sold the famed 1,000-cap venue to funk band Galactic, weeks after five investors filed a lawsuit claiming Von Kurnatowski bilked them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars related to investment in his Bond Fund One. The fund was set up to trade U.S. Treasury bonds and was considered a low risk investment, but a Jesuit priest and retired meteorologist Dan Milham and his wife Paula Pendarvis-Milham filed lawsuits in federal and civil district courts saying the money was illegally diverted to Von Kurnatowski's real estate investments.
Several investors have told a CBS affiliate WWL-TV that they've been interviewed by the officials with the FBI about their investments and reps from the Department of Justice told the station it planned to issue a subpoena for a May news report on the Bond One Fund, which has never registered with a financial regulator.
Signs of trouble first appeared, accoring to WWL-TV, in January 2018 when Bond One Fund stopped sending monthly statements to investors. Von Kurnatowski told the TV station he notified investors that he was diverting some of the funds toward real estate projects, a claim that investors reportedly refute and say was barred under the terms of their agreement. Those real estate projects include New Orleans' Orpheum theater and several commerical real estate ventures throughout Louisiana. Von Kurnatowski blames much of his finnacial woes on former business partner and surgeon Eric George, telling the TV station his problems go "back to being left in the lurch" by George.
George denies the claim and tells the station he ended the five-year business venture with Von Kurnatowski -- which bought and rehabbed buildings in New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana -- after seeing signs of trouble, like complaints of bounced checks and news reports in the New Orleans Advocate about Von Kurnatowski's financial dealings tied to a $15 million development project called Lakeshore Landing.
As their relationship soured, George sold his share of the investment to Von Kurnatowski’s sister, Joan Hooper, and her two sons for $2 million. The Hooper family is now suing Von Kurnatowski, alleging he misrepresented rental income and construction costs to entice them into buying out George, a claim Von Kurnatowski denied to the Advocate.
As his real estate empire began to unwind, investors in the bond fund discovered they couldn't liquidate their investments because much of the money had been tied up in real estate, despite a written promise that the capital in the fund would only be used for trading Treasury bonds. Retired Jesuit priest Antone Lynch filed a lawsuit against Von Kurnatowski describing Bond Fund One as a long running ponzi scheme that became insolvent when Von Kurnatowski began experiencing financial problems and was unable to raise capital.
Besides the alleged Ponzi scheme, authorities are also reportedly looking into how Von Kurnatowski operated the Tipitinas Foundation, which raised thousands of dollars to buy musical instruments for local school bands.