A California jury has determined that trainer Julio Canani and Roger Licht, a former chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, defrauded Jeffrey Nielsen’s Everest Stables in a number of horse transactions in 2008.
Following a week-long trial, the jury in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California decided Canani had committed fraud and breached his fiduciary trust by misrepresenting details of the condition of six horses so he, or his Tarma Corp., could purchase them for prices lower than they were worth.
Those horses were All Man, Catana Perez, Ditto This, Mini Do, Voodoo’s Vision, and Stand Tall.
The jury also found that Canani obtained and unjustly retained financial benefits from the sale of those six horses, plus Everest Stables' stakes winner Two Step Salsa, and that Canani’s financial benefits from the sale of those horses deprived Everest of its property or the true value of its property.
Not long after the initial suit was filed in December 2009, trainer A. C. Avila and owner Sheikh Mohammed were removed as co-defendants. Nielsen had contended Avilia failed to disclose he was acting on behalf of the Godolphin Racing owner in connection with the $1.4 million purchase of Two Step Salsa. Avilia and Sheikh Mohammed were not parties to the final verdict, since U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer had thrown out that part of the case.
Also, the jury found that Licht had conspired with Canani to fraudulently convince Everest to sell two horses for lower prices by aiding and abetting Canani to breach his fiduciary and agency roles, and by unlawfully concealing or misrepresenting with fraudulent intent Canani’s role in an offer from Licht for two other horses, Lady Lumberjack and Silent Stalk. The jury found Licht had obtained and unjustly retained financial benefits from the sale of those two horses as well.
Although the jury found in favor of Everest Stables’ claim that Canani and Licht had committed fraud and breach of duty in connection with the transactions, the amount of damages assessed the defendants was well below the more than $1 million being sought by the plaintiff.
In awarding actual damages totaling $48,750 to Everest Stables, the jury attributed 75% of the fault to Canani and Tarma Corp., and 25% to Licht.
The jury also assessed punitive damages of $37,500 to Everest Stables from Canani, and $12,500 in punitive damages from Licht to the plaintiff.