Prince George's County Council member Anthony Cicoria swore that his Hyattsville trophy shop was debt-free when he sold it last month, although he is continuing to make payments on a $75,000 loan he obtained for the shop in 1979, according to a lawyer for the businessman who purchased the store and sale records.
Attorneys for both the buyer and Cicoria agreed that the council member remains responsible for the unpaid balance of $62,400 on the Small Business Administration loan, even though the shop, called "Tony's Super Bowl," was sold for $55,000.
Stephen L. Bluestone, a lawyer for one of the buyers, Shawn P. Mendel, 25, said yesterday that if Mendel had known about the loan, he might not have bought the shop since its assets "were not Cicoria's to sell." The lawyer said that Mendel has been told by the SBA that Cicoria is about $7,000 behind in his payments, which raises the possibility of foreclosure.
Cicoria, whose home and the assets of the trophy shop including its stock and furnishings, are pledged as collateral for the loan, could not be reached for comment yesterday. His attorney, Leonard Goldstein, said that Cicoria had intended to use his own assets to reduce the SBA loan to the amount Mendel owed him and then, with the SBA's approval, sign the loan over to Mendel.
Mendel, with a partner, borrowed a $10,000 down payment and was to make payments to Cicoria for the remaining $45,000, according to attorneys in the case. If Mendel then assumed the SBA loan, Goldstein said, he would pay a lower interest rate than what he was paying to Cicoria.
Mendel says he knew nothing about Cicoria's plans for transferring the SBA loan, and was totally unaware of its existence until March 9, when he he got a letter from the SBA, sent to Tony's Super Bowl, which said that a payment of $886 was due on the loan and that the total amount due was $7,088.
That same day, Mendel was scheduled to meet with Cicoria, in a lawyer's office, to try to settle days of wrangling between Cicoria and Mendel over when Mendel would take over the shop, which began when Cicoria challenged the payment terms of the signed settlement agreement with Mendel.
After learning of the SBA loan, Bluestone said Mendel "dropped the whole matter like a hot potato," said he wanted out of the sale, and wanted a refund of his $10,000 down payment.
According to Bluestone, Cicoria regained possession of the shop and Mendel was told he would receive his money back, all of which was being held by a settlement lawyer. But late yesterday, Bluestone said, Cicoria's lawyer told him the $10,000 would not be forthcoming and that Cicoria was planning to enforce the sale agreement.
"This is incredible . . . . This is getting ridiculous," said Mendel, who says he is now trying to get a job as an auto parts delivery man.
Mendel said he decided to buy the business from Cicoria because "it was time for me to put everything on the line, go for it, the American dream." Now, Mendel says "It's so humiliating . . . . I was on top of the world and totally destroyed."
Goldstein said he did not ask Cicoria why he had signed a sworn statement saying that there were no liens of any kind against the shop. Goldstein said that Cicoria might have thought that there were no liens that Mendel would be responsible for since Cicoria would be paying the SBA.
At the meeting in the lawyer's office on March 9, Mendel and his attorney Bluestone said that Cicoria readily admitted that the SBA loan existed.
Alan W. Bernstein, an Annapolis attorney who acted as the settlement lawyer for both Cicoria and Mendel, said yesterday that he had no knowledge of the SBA loan.
"Cicoria had told everyone there were no liens . . . . He signed an affidavit and told us orally," Bernstein said yesterday.