Rapides judge: Evidence 'clearly convincing' that Chandlers sale was fraud – The Town Talk
A Rapides Parish judge ruled last week it was “clearly convincing” that the purported sale of a Boyce convenience store was a case of fraud.
Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Patricia Koch, in written reasons filed with the Rapides Parish Clerk of Court’s Office on Aug. 31, ruled that the sale of Chandler Groceries be rescinded and declared null and void.
“The testimony was very revealing in how the pieces to deceive were put into place,” she wrote. “That deception involved multiple parties and multiple events. The version given by (Ayoub) Ali was self-serving while the testimony of the others … were more accurate reflections of the events of that day in which the cash sale was developed.”
She wrote that there were questions about the source of the money for the sale, stating the testimonies of Ali and his father, Wahid Yousef, differed and proof was strong that the transaction was “plagued with inconsistencies and misguidance.”
Her decision came after a July 15 bench trial, a trial held after the lawyer for Broussard resident Ayoub Ali objected to a default judgment issued by Koch against him on July 20, 2020.
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Both Ali and Donald Chandler, who owned the property on La. Highway 28 West outside Alexandria, testified during the trial. Koch wrote that their testimonies began to conflict beyond the details of trying to arrange the sale and agreeing on how to transact it.
Chandler testified that Ali contacted him about buying the property, but Chandler already had an interested potential buyer. When that deal fell through, Chandler told Ali he would accept $325,000.
He rejected an offer of $200,000 cash and a personal check for the balance, asking instead for all cash or a cashier’s check, according to testimony. As Koch wrote, the versions of what happened differ from this point.
Chandler testified he never received any money and that a plan to meet at his attorney’s office with Ali and his father fell through when the father texted to say he had been in a wreck while traveling to Alexandria from Broussard.
Ali testified he gave the cash to Chandler and that the pair then went to a notary’s office to finalize the sale.
“Issues of credibility are threaded through the trial,” Koch wrote. “As is often said the truth lies somewhere in between the stories told within the courtroom.”
Koch wrote that Chandler was “adamant in his testimony that he never signed a cash sale nor did he sign anything involving the resolution for the sale” and was “equally adamant that he did not receive $325,000 for the sale.”
He did testify the signature on the notarized document was his, but said he didn’t read the document when he signed it because he thought it was paperwork helping to secure a liquor license for Ali, who had been denied one previously.
Chandler also did not ask for a copy of the document, Koch wrote.
Two former store employees, Audrey McQueen and Christy Delaney, both testified they remember being asked to sign a document. But both said they were told the document was related to a liquor license.
Both women had worked at the store under a previous operator, but continued working for Ali. However, they both left because of problems related to their salaries. McQueen reported her concerns to the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to the document.
Koch wrote that the notary, Diane Deville, also testified, but was a reluctant witness who stated she did not remember much about the day the transaction supposedly was finalized.
“The finer details of their interactions about their encounter were no longer in her memory,” Koch wrote, adding that Deville saw her role as only verifying the signatures on the document.
She did testify that later, after Chandler’s initial lawsuit was filed, Ali came to her office and asked her to sign an affidavit or to make a statement.
“She did not sign nor did she draft her own affidavit,” Koch wrote. “She did, however, participate in a deposition.”
Ali had testified that he and his family had owned multiple small stores throughout the state. He said he gave $325,000 cash in a brown paper bag to Chandler while at the store and that McQueen and Delaney signed the cash sale deed as witnesses on the same day.
Chandler put the bag in his vehicle, he testified, and the two rode together to a notary.
“Ali’s version is that it was Chandler who didn’t want to see or use the services of Michael Walters because of COVID concerns,” Koch wrote.
Others who testified at trial were Walters, insurance agent Robert Soileau and Ali’s brother, Nidhaul Ali.
Koch wrote that Deville was “blatantly honest” in her testimony, and that Louisiana law requires “more action on the part of the notary for an authentic act,” noting that the witnesses testified they didn’t go to Deville’s office nor did they sign in front of her or even the others who already had signed the document.
The ruling doesn’t completely end the saga, however. Two other lawsuits concerning insurance issues stemming from a June 7, 2020, fire that destroyed the store still are active.
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Ali also faces criminal charges in connection to the case. He was arrested by Louisiana State Police in February. In early August, the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office filed formal felony charges of insurance fraud, attempted theft of more than $25,000, forgery and filing false public records against him.
No arraignment date has been set.