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Bryan Abboud was dining among the stars that weekend in July 2006. There were last-minute reservations at celeb-heavy Spago Beverly Hills. Chef Wolfgang Puck even passed by their table. Names like Anna Nicole Smith, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and French bombshell Lydie Denier swirled around his dinner companion, movie producer David Dadon.
Then Dadon handed over a box of Cohiba Esplendidos cigars.
Abboud, a dashing Coconut Grove businessman in his midthirties and father of three, was nearly ready to consecrate a deal worth $800,000 or more with Dadon. What he didn't realize was that he was about to become entangled with a man with a long history of deals that ended abruptly amid threats and lawsuits.
Abboud thought Dadon was a legit businessman. But Dadon's many detractors tell a different story: Dadon fleeces unwary investors, they say. Investors like Abboud.
Abboud says Dadon didn't follow through on their deal, so a few months later he filed suit. After months of legal wrangling, Miami-Dade Special Magistrate Alan Postman wrote in August 2007 about the dispute between Abboud and Dadon: "This appears to be another in a long line of cases involving David Dadon, wherein he has attempted wrongfully to acquire public corporations, attempted to take investors' money, attempted to falsely accuse others, and has had his testimony rejected by the courts of this nation."
Dadon, 56, responds, "The only person who has done wrong is Bryan Abboud. Bryan Abboud knows how to beat the system... The court gives him the keys to steal."
He declines further comment, but the public record is replete with information about David Dadon and his son Jacob, who was also involved in the dispute. David has been involved in at least 20 lawsuits in three states and Canada since 2001, records show. Jacob recently filed for bankruptcy in California, listing $1,850 in assets while owing $1.58 million to creditors. Seven Social Security numbers and three aliases are linked to David Dadon, as is the family's $1.38 million, five-bedroom house in the San Fernando Valley.
If Newsweek is to be trusted, David Dadon's ties to the Hollywood film industry date back at least 16 years. After starlet Anna Nicole Smith's recent death in South Florida, Dadon told the magazine he had taken her to her "first restaurant in Los Angeles" in 1992. "Everyone said she was a bimbo, and this made her increasingly depressed," he was quoted as saying. "She never had any real friends."
In May 2000, Dadon made another splash when he told Variety he had launched the movie production company Giants Entertainment with $100 million of his own money after selling a sportswear firm for seven figures. At the time, he boasted of his connections with the famous. "[I] can call any star at home," he said. Dadon's company brought 17 titles to the Cannes Film Festival, the article says. One of them was Very Mean Men, which listed Dadon as one of three producers.
A month later, Variety called Very Mean Men "the funniest crime caper to come down the pike since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." Dadon deemed it the "best movie I ever made."
It's unclear if the film was ever released in U.S. theaters, and a copy can't be found on Amazon.com. Steve Baio, brother of Happy Days heartthrob Scott and one of the coproducers, takes credit for the movie on his MySpace page. "I produced all these films," he writes, referring to a series of works — some tied to Dadon. "They were all shitty."
Over the next few years, Dadon was involved in a slew of legal battles that led up to his showdown with Abboud:
• Reel Good, Inc., a California company, sued Dadon and his company in January 2000 for ordering film stock and not paying for it. Dadon countersued, alleging the product was substandard. The case was dismissed at Dadon's request.
• In July 2000, Dadon's firm, Giants, sued starlet Denier, who played Jane in a 1990s Tarzan TV series and appeared on Baywatch, claiming she walked off a movie set. Denier produced phone messages showing she was told not to come back, and Dadon dropped the suit.
• In August of the same year, Dadon sued Van Damme, contending the chiseled martial-arts expert snubbed him on a promised producer credit. The next January, a judge threw out the suit.
• In May 2001, attorney Tristram Buckley sued Dadon for contractual fraud. The dispute noted "a great deal of time" the attorney allegedly spent pulling Daily Variety from newsstands because of a story about Dadon that the producer claimed was false. A judge ruled in favor of Buckley in May 2006 and awarded him $76,354 in damages.
Buckley, 46, says Dadon told him he was a driver for Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel. "He was so over-the-top," Buckley says. "He did sell movies, but he never made his money back from his movies."
Over the next few years, there were more lawsuits:
• In February 2002, armed federal marshals stormed Dadon's company suite in Santa Monica to seize digital masters of two films after an independent director claimed Dadon infringed upon the copyright. The case was settled a year later under unknown circumstances.
• In a July 2003 case, Viastar Holdings sued Dadon to block him from representing himself as part of the company. "It's time that his tactics are stopped," Viastar President John Aquilino said. The judge temporarily halted Dadon from acting on the company's behalf, and the two sides reached a settlement in May 2004.
• In December of that year, Hairmax International, a Fort Lauderdale-based salon and hair product firm, sued Dadon for $5 million in Fort Lauderdale, alleging he failed to deliver the agreed-upon rights to an action flick called Revenge Games. A judge dismissed the case in October 2004. Cheryl Picariello, a notary involved in the case, says Dadon demanded documents from her, claiming he was an FBI agent, according to court records. "It's the worst experience I've had," she contends. "He said he would make trouble for me and my business."
The dispute between Abboud and the Dadons began a few months after the Spago dinner. Abboud, a Nebraska native, started a company in the online gaming industry in 1996, took it public in 1998, and moved it to Miami in 2002. In 2006, he and other shareholders decided to sell Global Entertainment Holdings/Equities in pieces. One of the buyers was a firm that listed David Dadon's wife, Lydia, and their son Jacob as officers. Abboud said he never dealt with Jacob, a Santa Monica College film major who was slated to become Global's president.
After David Dadon and Abboud reached a verbal agreement, Dadon delayed signing the closing documents and began using a company credit card, Abboud says. Indeed, a November 2006 American Express statement in the name of Jacob Dadon and Global Entertainment lists the elder Dadons as cardholders and shows $22,752.11 in charges. David Dadon's card racked up half of those, including a $4,062.20 stay at the Sofitel Miami.
That same month, Abboud sued the Dadons. During testimony, Jacob Dadon showed almost no knowledge of the company's operations. When asked dozens of questions about Global, the 25-year-old repeatedly responded he could not recall, records show.
"It is simply not credible that the president and chief financial officer of a publicly traded company does not know or recall the answers to these questions," Magistrate Alan Postman wrote.
Says Bryan Abboud: "He has positioned his son as the fall guy. What kind of human does that?"
Replies David Dadon: "He's lying. It never happened. My son opened an account with American Express, and it's all denied."
Last March, Global (listing David Dadon as its chairman) sued Abboud and his lawyer, Al Lindsay, among others, alleging securities fraud. Dadon accused Abboud of stealing $2 million from Global. The suit was later withdrawn and dismissed in May.
In August 2007, Judge Daryl Trawick barred Dadon and his son from taking over Global. He sided with Postman in recommending that the Dadons return Global property as well as cancel and return its stock. The judge referred the case to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI, the IRS, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Trawick issued arrest warrants for the Dadons in November because they violated his order to appear in court. The judge did so despite a letter from David Dadon pleading to hold the hearing by phone. "I have financial difficulties to travel. I am on heavy medication," he wrote, noting he suffers from heart problems and gout. "Your Honor, I am a father of five children. This case took all our finances and savings. We have no money to pay the attorneys or to pay to move the furniture."
A final hearing on damages in the case and the arrest warrants should be set soon, says Abboud's lawyer, Lindsay.
Meanwhile, Abboud is pushing for a federal investigation. "I spent ten years building that company, and he was stealing it," Abboud says. "The big question is, why the hell hasn't anything been done about him?"
Jacob Dadon filed for bankruptcy in California this past November. Records show him living at his parents' address and list his monthly take-home pay as $891.14 as a chef at a seafood joint.
David Dadon says he plans to head overseas for a few weeks, but he wouldn't say where. "This [dispute with Abboud] is going to be a movie. This is a very interesting story because it's like Wall Street."
Abboud responds with a chortle: "I guess we agree on one thing, but it would be told from a different perspective."