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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wife Gets a Lot of Dough in East-Side Pizza Fightin $1.1 Million Dustup


Darah Hansen and Gerry Bellett, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, March 03, 2007

In a neighbourhood renowned for its Italian flavours, Lombardo Pizzeria and Restaurant is something of an institution.

Tucked away in a little mall on Commercial Drive, the modest restaurant has been serving up what many consider to be the best wood-fired pizza in the city for the past 20 years.

It was opened in 1986 by Marcello Lombardo and his wife Patricia, and for 11 years they built up an enviable business as customers couldn't get enough of their pizza and other dishes.

Then, what B.C. Supreme Court Justice T. M McEwan described as "this remarkable joint enterprise," came to a sudden end when Marcello was found by his wife to be having an affair with a female employee.

The discovery led to divorce and a complex and bitter series of court actions between them that have been the talk of Commercial Drive for years.

Among other things, it led to his wife being awarded Lombardo's in divorce proceedings, posters later appearing on Commercial Drive accusing Marcello of being a "dead-beat dad" for not paying child support for his three children, and allegations that Marcello had secretly skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars from Lombardo's while the divorce proceedings were underway so he could finance the opening of his new restaurant -- Marcello Pizzeria -- which he opened just down the street in September, 1999.

This week after months of court time in an action that began in April 2003, McEwan handed down an omnibus 97-page judgment whose tone towards Marcello and his evidence could best be described as incredulous.

When all the dust settled, Marcello was handed a bill for $1,171,208 to be paid to his former wife for fraudulently misappropriating money from their restaurant and for back child support.

He was also told that his child support payments have been increased from $1,228 a month to $14,368 after McEwan found he had provided "incomplete or misleading financial disclosure" at the time his child support payments were set.

The judge said Marcello had engaged in a pattern of obstruction, presentation of false or misleading financial records and destruction of financial records relating to his new business.

Marcello is required to pay his former wife:

- $290,000 for what he took out of the business over the two years it took for the divorce settlement to be reached, cash she said he took from the take-out pizza operation.

- $702,804 for child support to the end of 2005.

- $178,404 in arrears since January 2006.

The judge also tossed Marcello's claim that he had been defamed by being labelled a "dead-beat dad."

During litigation Marcello claimed he was not the owner of Marcello Pizzeria when it first opened and that the money behind it belonged to friends and family, and he presented witnesses to support his position.

McEwan could hardly keep his derision in check calling their combined evidence a "festival of mendacity staged by Mr. Lombardo and his clumsy supporting cast. It is manifest that he was always the true owner and operating mind behind Marcello's."

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1 Comments:

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