More allegations surface in case involving two prominent Aspen families
July 11, 2017
Local attorney Andy Hecht, his son and others engaged in racketeering and conspiracy to defraud a prominent Aspen family of numerous real estate assets over the past decade, according to recently filed court documents.
In an amended complaint filed last week in Aspen District Court, Juliana Pfister alleges that Hecht forged her grandmother’s signature on a document, engaged in a quid pro quo deal with a local Aspen developer to defraud her and entered into seven questionable real estate deals that benefited Hecht and his family at Pfister’s expense, the documents state.
“(Over) many years, Andrew Hecht abused his position of trust,” the complaint states. “The inherent conflicts created by his multiple roles ultimately manifested themselves in a series of improper self-dealings designed to benefit himself, his law firm and his family.”
Dan Reilly, Hecht’s lawyer in Denver, said Monday that the allegations are groundless and that Pfister has no legal right to reverse transactions her grandfather entered into decades ago.
“Art Pfister was an astute businessman with sophisticated advisers taking these actions for estate purposes,” Reilly said. “We’re going to defend Art’s decisions in handling his estate and Andy’s legal execution of them in this lawsuit.”
Art and Betty Pfister helped develop the Buttermilk ski area and the Maroon Creek Club, which is located on the site of a ranch the couple owned. Art Pfister died in March 2007, while Betty Pfister died in November 2011.
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Juliana Pfister filed her initial lawsuit in November alleging that Hecht used his position as trustee for the Pfister family to sell their portion of a private retreat above Ruedi Reservoir to his son, Nikos, for a price significantly below market value.
Then in December, Juliana Pfister filed a motion that said Andy Hecht defrauded the Pfister family out of millions of dollars in annual proceeds they were owed from the Maroon Creek Club.
Now in the amended complaint filed June 30, Juliana Pfister and her lawyers, David Bovino of Aspen and John Chanin of Denver, provided more details about those two transactions, as well as several others they characterize as questionable.
One of the new allegations concerns two lots Art and Betty Pfister owned on Buttermilk Mountain. Andy Hecht sold both lots to Aspen developer Mark Friedland in February 2014, one for $2.5 million and the other for $2 million, according to the complaint.
The $2.5 million lot was sold for at least $1.2 million below market value, while the $2 million lot was sold for at least $1 million below market value, the complaint states.
The sales occurred just two days after Nancy Pfister, Juliana’s mother, was murdered, according to the complaint.
Friedland has engaged in other real estate transactions with Andy and Nikos Hecht in which he paid well above market value for properties, the complaint states.
One of those transactions surrounded the sale of the penthouse located on the top floor of the building that houses Andy Hecht’s law firm in downtown Aspen. That property was initially sold by a limited liability company associated with Andy Hecht to another limited liability company associated with Nikos Hecht for $3.2 million in March 2014, according to the complaint.
“Then a few months later on Nov. 20, 2014, Nikos Hecht sold this penthouse to a limited liability company owned and controlled by Mark Friedland for $15,800,000 — one of the highest prices per square foot ever paid for Aspen real estate,” the complaint states.
On Monday, Friedland denied all of those allegations, saying he paid neither above market nor below market prices for anything he bought from the Hechts. Further, he said he did not buy the $15.8 million Muse Building penthouse in question.
“I was not the buyer,” Friedland said, though he referred the buyer to the Hechts.
Friedland also pointed out that he was under contract to buy the Buttermilk lots long before Nancy Pfister was murdered.
Another allegedly questionable deal involved a limited liability company called Katie Reed Investors, the complaint states. Andy Hecht controlled that company and engineered the sale of a percentage of its assets belonging to two other Pfister sisters to Nikos Hecht in November 2006.
Andy Hecht has produced a letter allegedly signed by Art and Betty Pfister tying the sale of the Katie Reed assets and the private retreat above Ruedi called Woods Lake to the couple’s estate planning goals, according to the complaint. However, Betty Pfister signed the letter with the wrong middle initial, the complaint states.
“(This) letter is a forgery and not genuine,” according to the complaint.
Next, Juliana Pfister alleges that Andy Hecht disregarded an offer by a friend of one of her aunts to buy the family’s assets in Woods Lake for between $2 million and $3 million. Andy Hecht declined to allow the sale because it would have negative tax consequences for the Pfister family and instead sold the Pfister family’s Woods Lake interests to his son for the “exceedingly low price” of $800,000, the complaint states.
The complaint also details three other allegedly questionable Hecht-engineered transactions from 2006, including selling two mining claims owned by Art Pfister, his interest in the Basalt Business Center West and the sale of another Buttermilk property.
The complaint claims that Andy Hecht, Nikos Hecht and 15 other unidentified people engaged in fraud, negligence and breach of duty as well as civil conspiracy and violation of Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act, which includes racketeering, in handling the Pfister assets.
Doug Tumminello, Nikos Hecht’s lawyer, declined to comment Monday on the allegations.