Feud: The Seeno family competes for a Bay Area real estate empire (2023)

[BenIndy contributor Nathalie Christian: Here's the real meat of the article: Concord's conversations with Seena are not"Specifics of terms or points of agreement, not assertions made [via] editorial commentary in a local newspaper."Guys, here's the proofjOur letters to the editor and other community-related actions, such as public comments at city council meetings, public hearings or researchit can definitely change the outcome.They did it in Concord, didn't they? Never underestimate the value of sharing your opinion with the community.Your community is listening.Over the next few days, I will offer additional observations on this important issue. contact usbenindy@beniciaindependent.comIf you want to share yours. - North Carolina]

Feud: The Seeno family competes for a Bay Area real estate empire (1)

the only real one [Real Estate News], von Pawan Naidu, May 1,

For a family that has built a real estate empire of thousands of homes in the East Bay over the past nine years, the Seens usually try to keep their business private.

"Instead of following what Donald Trump did, they're patting themselves on the back," said Phil Tagami, CEO of California Capital and Investment Group, which is working with Seenos on a failed attempt to rehabilitate a former naval base in the area. "They just move on to the next project."

But the limelight they've avoided for decades occasionally finds them -- and not for the right reasons.

Patriarch Albert Senor Jr., 80, has been arguing with his son Albert III for a year. To control the family business. She claims he mismanaged funds and tried to take advantage of her and other relatives. It's just the latest chapter in Seenos' decades-long legal history, littered with accusations of everything from political interference to outright threats of violence.

Seenos did not respond to an interview request for this story.

American dream

The Bay Area family's history begins with Albert Jr.'s grandfather, Gaetano Seena, who came to the United States in the early 1900s as one of thousands of Italian immigrants who became fishermen in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and Suisun Bay.

Gaetano continued to work in construction and eventually brought his son Albert Sr. into the business.

Albert Sr. started his construction company in 1938, and by the time of his death in 2000, the company had built more than 30,000 homes, dozens of shopping centers, homes and offices, mostly in eastern Contra Costa County.

"You could drive for miles in [East Bay] Pittsburgh and all you could see was the Seeno project," company CEO Bob Rossi told SFGate in 2000. "[Albert Sr.] loves Pittsburgh and is very proud of what he and his sons have accomplished here."

When Albert Sr. retired in the 1970s, he passed the business on to his sons Albert Jr. and Thomas, who continued to run the family business with five companies: ADSCO, Seecon, West Coast Home Builders, North Village Development and Seecon Built homes.

In 1997, third-generation CEO Albert III followed in his father's footsteps and started his own offshoot of the family business: Discovery Builders.

Development led by Albert Jr. it was not without controversy, although some locals see it differently.

"He's almost like the pope, with these people in town," former Pittsburgh Planning Commissioner Alan Valentine told SF Gate in 2002.

However, he has been repeatedly accused of improper ties to local leaders, including allegations that he aided former Pittsburgh Mayor Frank Aiello.get a cheap mortgageThe purchase of the Seen home raised questions about whether the loan constituted a prohibited gift to an elected official. In 2004, AielloAgree to pay $20,000After failing to disclose gifts he received from Albert Jr., including Oakland Raiders tickets and a trip to a Reno casino, according to SFGate.

In 2003, former Pittsburgh Councilman Frank Quesada pleaded guilty to conflict-of-interest charges stemming from a $370,000 personal debt owed to a developer because he voted for the Albert Jr. project, and was sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

During a panel discussion ahead of Pittsburgh's 2012 city council election, voters expressed concern about the family's excessive influence over the company, noting that Seenos owns 90 percent of the city's vacant land, The Mercury News reported.

Despite the alleged shortcomings, the family worked hard to maintain its strong local reputation and continue to develop new projects. Discovery Builders was approved last monthBuild 1500 houseson 341 acres outside of Pittsburgh after years of opposition from local officials and environmental groups.

However, although Albert III. Trying to move the company forward, he is haunted by his family's past.

I see no evil

Other, more serious charges were brought against the family. Seenos in 2012Sue the influential Las Vegas lobbyist Harvey Whitmore, accusing him of embezzling millions of dollars from a joint real estate venture called Wingfield Nevada Group Holding Co.

Whitmore fought back against Albert Jr., accusing the father and son of threatening him and his family with default on millions of dollars owed by a real estate partnership that collapsed in 2011. Whitmore asked Albert III. and his brother for $1.8 billion in damages, charging Seenos with racketeering, racketeering, aggravated theft and threats of bodily harm.

Months after Whitmore was sentenced to two years in prison in 2013 for making illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Harry Reid, no criminal charges were filed and the case was sealed in 2013.

"[Whittemore] filed a frivolous, baseless lawsuit that was lost and dismissed," Louis Parsons, president of Seena-affiliated Discovery Builders, told The Real Deal.

But Whitmore is not alone in making allegations of intimidation against members of the Sino family. In 2017, Ayman Shahid, a high school friend of Albert III. and former president of sales for Discovery, claimed the young Seeno made a "horrific death threat" to him, according to court documents. The alleged threats relate to Shahid agreeing to help the FBI investigate allegations of mortgage fraud related to the family business.

"Hey [expletive]. I'm going to finish you off! I'm going to kill you!" ShahidAccused of narrating III, according to court records.

Charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence of a credible threat.

"There is no evidence that Shahid was ever in real danger," U.S. Attorney John Herman wrote in a letter to the court. "Although completely and utterly inappropriate and possibly vindictive in nature, it appears that his former boss was venting his anger rather than threatening Shahid with death or injury."

The FBI's mortgage fraud investigation began in 2010 and ended with a federal raid on the Sino family headquarters in Concord in 2017. According to an FBI spokesman, investigators accused Seeno of misleading underwriters about the true value of the homes. The alleged misconduct occurred between 2006 and 2008, when Discovery took steps to prevent the loss of market position, according to court documents.

Discovery encourages new homebuyers by financing their down payments and subsidizing mortgage payments, the documents show. Company employees and others lobbied to ensure that these incentives were not disclosed on mortgage applications.

Although none of the members of the Sino family have been charged,Shahid pleads guiltyHe was fined $8 million and $3 million in restitution for bank fraud and disclosure of sales. Albert III denied any involvement.

"After years of investigation and interviews with hundreds of individuals, the US Attorney's Office has confirmed that there is no evidence that Albert Sinos III or any other level of management knew or participated in the fraud of [former] employees," Parsons said. S said of TRD.

Although Shahid cooperated with the federal investigation, he was sentenced to 46 months in prison in 2017.

"What's important to me is that the defendants believe that if they acted in this way, they could face serious prison terms," ​​Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said at the sentencing hearing.

Seenos was always on the same side of the accusation. But a new lawsuit between father and son changed all that.

a question of level

In a recent lawsuit filed by Albert Jr. Albert III is said to have been fired as CEO of two family businesses: Seecon and Seecon Built Homes. This is the role of Albert III. Promoted in July 2020. Albert Jr. claims that in February and March of last year, he tried to get his son fired, but the son did not listen. Instead, Albert III argued that his employment contract contained a clause that he could only be fired if he committed a crime affecting his father's business.

However, Albert Jr. claims his succession plan is to advance his son without immediately relinquishing his own control of the company. The suit also alleges that the younger Sino hired lawyers from Parsons LLP to draft an employment agreement with terms that could force his father and other shareholders to step down.

Shortly after the agreement was drawn up, Albert III. The lawsuit alleges that he first executed the contract by coercing, intimidating and then harassing his father.

"Seeno III's intimidation tactics included trying to bully and belittle his father. When that tactic failed, Seeno III tried to pressure Seeno, telling him that if he didn't sign an employment contract, Seeno would never see his three grandchildren again," the document read. .

Albert Jr. he also accused his son of preventing him from accessing company data and of using Seeno Companies employees in the Discovery Builders project.

In one example, the lawsuit alleges that Discovery Builders used the Seeno Companies name and trademark on a project that brought 252 single-family homes to Brentwood.

According to Parsons, Albert III. Dismiss all allegations from the lawsuit.

"This reflects some of the natural tension in succession planning that is unfortunately typical and, in my view, hardly newsworthy," he said.

Albert III filed a counterclaim against his father in October, denying that he owes him about $100 million in debt. and Discovery Builders allegedly owed money.

Albert III claims that a foundation established by his parents was used to pay Albert Jr.'s debts. without his permission. Albert III also accuses his father in the lawsuit of trying to shut down Discovery Builders operations.

Not only does a family feud lead to a fight between father and son, it also raises warnings and derails a major company project.

A partnership between Discovery, Lewis Group & Cos. California Capital and Investment Group has been selected to transform the former Concord Naval Base into 16,000 new homes and more than 6 million square feet of commercial space. The partnership, known as Concord First Partners, was approved by the Concord City Council in August 2021 on a 3-2 vote.

But after a special two-hour meeting on January 28 this year, the council voted to sever ties with the group, citing concerns over a row with the Seeno family and why it had not been announced earlier.

“Where is the integrity, where is the message that we're saying?” Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister said during the meeting. "We have to read about it in the papers, that's not what I'm looking for in a partnership."

The development team believes the city's decision to end negotiations was wrong.

“Many of the questions are personal in nature and designed to personalize the topic,” says Capital California's Tagami. "It is not about the minutiae of the terms or substance of the contract, but about the claims made through editorial comments in local newspapers."

That's another question the father-son duo will have to grapple with, as the future of one of the Bay Area's last family-owned development companies hangs in the balance. Although the courts could resolve their commercial disputes, on Albert Jr. and Albert III had to settle their personal differences. Otherwise, it's going to be an awkward Thanksgiving for the Seeno family.

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Feud: The Seeno family competes for a Bay Area real estate empire (2)

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