A trial date was set Wednesday for a civil lawsuit accusing La Quinta mayoral candidate Robert Sylk of charging a woman $15,000 to help her obtain a $10 million loan for a development project that never came to pass.
Sylk says that the lawsuit, filed by La Quinta resident Diane Reed in April 2018, is “frivolous” and that he has fulfilled his end of their contract agreement.
Sylk, founder of Concerned Citizens of La Quinta, is challenging incumbent Mayor Linda Evans in the Nov. 3 election.
The trial is set for April 9 in Palm Springs, though Sylk is hoping the case will be dismissed before it goes to trial. “I am the victim of extortion,” he told The Desert Sun.
A motion to dismiss was scheduled to be heard in May, but was vacated by the court due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no new date set.
In the lawsuit, Reed states that she entered into a contract with Sylk in March 2014, when Sylk, a businessman, allegedly told her he could broker the loan for her.
The $15,000 she paid Sylk upfront was part of a $100,000 non-refundable retainer fee under which Reed would pay the $85,000 balance at closing of the loan, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Reed alleges that after signing the contract, she had several meetings with Sylk and his “associates,” and says that she was told the process “may take substantial time and commitment.”
There were meetings with various lending partners Sylk introduced her to along the way, but no loan came to fruition, the lawsuit states. In July 2017, Reed claims that Sylk stopped contacting her.
Under the contract, Reed only had to pay Sylk the $15,000 after meeting with investors and if she decided to go forward with the loan, Sylk said.
“She did meet with them twice in New York and decided to proceed,” Sylk said, adding he did not hear from her for nearly two years when she asked him to return her $15,000 fee.
Reed is seeking $15,000 restitution along with unspecified attorney fees and compensatory damages for a total of about $75,000, Reed’s lawyer, Jesse Thayer told The Desert Sun.
Thayer said Reed and Sylk had reached a $35,000 settlement agreement in September 2019, however, Sylk did not pay. There is a notice of settlement filed with the court on Sept. 24, 2019, submitted and signed by Thayer only — but not Sylk or an attorney for him.
“I filed last March 21st a declaration regarding that settlement of which emanated from the other side, not from the court, and I did not agree at all to it,” Sylk told The Desert Sun on Wednesday.
“They wanted to settle (which is their ‘MO’) but I believe I am in the right and have all the documents to prove it,” said Sylk, who has been representing himself, but is now in the process of retaining an attorney.
Reed has filed a dozen other lawsuits since 1998, all but three in small claims court including her lawsuit against Sylk. Small claims court handles claims up to $10,000. Of the cases filed by Reed, she won about half and the others were dismissed in favor of the defendant . Reed filed a malpractice suit in 2014 over a Lasik eye surgery for which she won a settlement. In 2019 she sued her attorneys in that case, saying their inexperience with malpractice suits won her a smaller settlement than she felt she was owed. That case is pending.
“This woman’s modus operandi is described as a baseless type of extortion using costly court proceedings against victims who must give her money or pay expensive attorney defense fees,” Sylk said.
The lawsuit initially included John Dunn, a Nevada resident, as co-defendant, but court records show that Dunn was later dropped from the suit when it was determined that he was not a recipient of any money nor was he a business associate of Sylk as Reed alleged.
Dunn told The Desert Sun on Wednesday he doesn’t know why he was named because he had never met Reed and before the lawsuit had met Sylk only once.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: April trial set for La Quinta woman’s suit against mayoral candidate Robert Sylk over loan deal