For nearly 20 years, Highland Associates Ltd. gave Anthony M. Caprio ever-increasing opportunities to learn the craft of architecture, the partners claim, only realizing after he rejected an offer to become a shareholder that he had secretly started a competing business, steering clients away of Highland and stole over $1.3 million in business.
Highland Associates of Manhattan sued Caprio on Feb. 15 in U.S. bankruptcy court in White Plains, accusing him of fraud and embezzlement.
When Highland partners Gil Ben-Ami and Glenn Leitch confronted Caprio on a conference call a year ago, the complaint states, Caprio admitted “I got greedy.”
But Caprio’s attorney, Daniel S. Alter, said “there’s a lot more to the story (and a lot less) than what’s alleged in the complaint,” and he would file a response with the court this week.
Highland says it employed Caprio as a designer after graduating from college in 2001 and as an architect after graduating in 2015.
Caprio was a “blank slate,” according to Highland. The company mentored him for nearly 20 years, teaching him how to write proposals, manage projects and coordinate building design. He participated in meetings with clients and was assigned important projects to execute.
In December 2020, the firm offered to make him a shareholder, but in February 2021, he rejected the offer.
Highland says it discovered Caprio had formed A. Caprio Design Inc. in 2007 and began diverting clients and prospects to his own business in 2011.
The company found approximately 140 invoices on a company laptop for work that A. Caprio Design, based in Yonkers, had done for customers in the Highlands, according to the complaint. A spreadsheet showed $1.34 million in revenue and $1.16 million in profit for Caprio’s business from 2016 to 2020.
Highland alleges that Caprio recruited at least seven other employees to work on A. Caprio Design projects, while those employees and Caprio were paid by Highland.
Most of the allegedly misappropriated work was done for Solow Building Co., a client Highland had served for years and for whom Caprio became the project manager and account manager.
Highland noticed Solow’s business began to decline around 2015. When the partners asked why, the complaint states, Caprio would “avoid answering the question, ignoring it as if he didn’t know.”
Highland sued Caprio for $2 million last April in Manhattan Supreme Court. Two months later, Caprio formed another company, A. Caprio Architect PLLC, based out of his home in Yonkers.
Then Caprio allegedly emptied his business bank accounts, from $16,630 to $100 in one instance and $72,400 to $2,938 in another, before filing for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy protection last November. .
He declared $665,577 in assets – made up mostly of his share of the Yonkers house – and $418,178 in liabilities. The petition lists three unsecured claims for unknown amounts from Highland as disputed.
The company argues that Caprio filed for bankruptcy to avoid reimbursing Highland, and that he under-reported his income in bankruptcy schedules, “with the real intention of preventing delays or defraud Highland”.
The company asks the court to prohibit Caprio from paying its debts.
Manhattan attorney Michael J. Riela is representing Highland.