Highland Park man died a year ago, but his estate still owes $27 million
Katamanin say his adult sons continue to try to block them from sizing up and pursuing his remaining fortune.
But the creditors' lawyers this week gained what they say could be a powerful tool in their attempts to collect on an alleged $27 million in debt, winning the right to shine a light into his sons' bank accounts in search of the elite casino patron's remaining wealth.
When he died in Switzerland in December 2009, the globetrotting Russian-born multimillionaire left behind a raft of creditors who claim he spent the end of his life racking up nearly $10 million in debts at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., and the Bahamas, and a debt of almost $17 million from a high-interest loan given by a Caribbean lender.
The creditors' lawyers initially accused his sons, Alan and Dean, of improperly selling pieces of their father's fleet of luxury cars and boats. Alan Katamanin sold a 2004 Maybach 57 for about $110,000, and Dean Katamanin unloaded a 2007 Porsche 911 for nearly $78,000, their lawyer wrote in a letter to the estate administrator.
But their efforts to "conceal and hide" their father's wealth have continued, according to lawyers for Plymouth Consultants, the lender based in the British Virgin Islands that claims to have given Katamanin a $12 million loan in March 2008.
A Chase bank official told Plymouth's lawyers the sons have 15 bank accounts at that institution alone, the attorneys said, and the lawyers suspect the sons, both graduate students, may have opened bank accounts to store their father's wealth.
"What the heck is someone their age doing with 15 accounts?" asked John Kennedy, a lawyer for Plymouth.
The creditors' lawyers also argued the sons are trying to stymie them by objecting to motions and avoiding questioning on their father's wealth.
When the creditors' lawyers sought to examine the sons' bank records, the Katamanins' attorneys asked a judge to block access to the accounts, claiming the lenders were trying to "harass and violate the privacy" of the family. The sons' lawyers said they have no problem with the probe into the father's finances, but their personal accounts should be private.
Meg Hudgins, a lawyer for the sons, argued in court Thursday that the sons told her they don't have 15 accounts at Chase, and she said the request to inspect the sons' finances was too "burdensome" and "invasive" to grant.
Lake County Judge Diane E. Winter disagreed, and she ordered the production of Chase bank records going back to Jan. 1, 2007, though she ordered records showing the sons' personal financial information redacted and others sealed.
The Tribune first reported in August how Katamanin — said to be a commodities trader — whipped up a storm of debt before he died at 53 of a heart ailment. Prosecutors in Nevada said they had planned to charge him criminally with skipping out on his debts, but he died before they could.
Katamanin lived with his family on a compound of two mansions on a green slope overlooking Lake Michigan. Both houses are now for sale for a total of $12 million, according to online sales listings.
The $12 million loan from Plymouth has accrued at least $5 million in interest, according to court records. The company's lawyers have no idea what Katamanin did with the principal, and they have seen no trace of the money since he borrowed it, Kennedy said.
Creditors' lawyers fear Katamanin's remaining wealth is being depleted even as they try to size it up, they said.
"We'll never know how much has walked away already," said Robert Markoff, a lawyer for several of the casinos.
A lawyer for his widow, Lena, recently filed a claim for a spouse's award of more than $318,000 to last her nine months. Lena Katamanin, who is caring for a young daughter, asked for nearly $47,000 for housekeeping and gardening; $2,700 for aquarium maintenance; and nearly $37,000 for clothing. She asked for almost $43,000 for tuition and tutoring for Alan Katamanin, and $18,000 for camp and lessons for the daughter.
Winter did not rule on the award, but Kennedy said it seems "kind of high."
Lawyers for the widow and sons declined to comment outside of court. A man who answered the door at one of the mansions said none of the Katamanins were home. He wouldn't say when they might return or how they might be reached.
By Dan Hinkel, email@example.com, Tribune reporter