A legal claim by the widow of H&S Bakery owner John Paterakis Sr. that his adult children from a prior marriage conspired to prevent her from inheriting $20 million has settled for much less and for no more than the children said their stepmother was entitled to under her agreement with their father.
“Unfortunately, and for personal reasons that I have not been authorized to share with you, Mrs. Paterakis determined that she should settle this matter as she has done and withdraw her action,” her attorney, Arnold M. Weiner, said Wednesday.
Weiner, of Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC in Baltimore, declined to elaborate.
Roula Paterakis will receive what she was left as either a beneficiary or co-owner when John Paterakis died on Oct. 16, 2016, at age 87. These items are $647,500 in life insurance, an Individual Retirement Account worth about $650,000, $250,000 cash and the house she co-owned with her husband in Lutherville-Timonium, the children’s attorney said.
“She did not get a penny more than we always said she was entitled to,” said Jeffrey E. Nusinov, of Nusinov Smith LLP in Baltimore. “We are going to honor his (Paterakis’) wishes.”
Roula Paterakis filed suit in November 2017 in Baltimore County Circuit Court, alleging her late husband’s children conspired to deprive her “of her rightful share of John’s estate.”
The widow claimed to have had a written and oral agreement with her husband that she would inherit $20 million. She alleged she was deprived of her rightful inheritance by “sham” trust transactions perpetrated by her stepchildren.
The lawsuit also alleged that William J. Paterakis and Venice Paterakis Smith, two of her husband’s six children, were “in possession and control of millions of dollars in cash hoards” removed from multiple safety deposit boxes and a safe in the elder Paterakis’ office.
The children denied the allegations.
“This law suit (sic) appears to be no more than a desperate attempt by Roula to obtain more money than she was left in JP’s Will,” William Paterakis, chairman of H&S Bakery, wrote in a signed letter to employees soon after his stepmother’s complaint was filed. “We intend to vigorously defend our family’s good name and the legacy of our father.”
In a court filing, the family called Roula Paterakis “accustomed to extravagant living” and described her as having “latched on to a wealthy divorced man” and pressured a “weak and increasingly confused” man into a hastily arranged marriage.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Colleen A. Cavanaugh found Roula Paterakis’ claim of sham trust transactions to be without merit, a determination affirmed by the Court of Special Appeals. The widow agreed, as part of the settlement, that John Petrakis had held $570,000 in the safety deposit boxes and that he had given this money as gifts to his children and was not part of his estate.
Cavanaugh approved the parties’ resolution of the lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon.
“Today’s action (by Cavanaugh) represents complete vindication and clears the Paterakis family name,” Nusinov stated via email. “All the accusations were proven to be nothing more than a failed attempt to pressure one of the most respected families in Baltimore.”
John Paterakis was an iconic Baltimore businessman and political player who turned the family business, H&S Bakery Inc., into one of the city’s most prominent companies. Eventually, he invested in real estate development, such as Harbor East, which reshaped the city’s waterfront skyline.
John Paterakis’ involvement in politics wasn’t without controversy. He was referred to as “the bread man” by some politicians, a nod not only to his successful bakery but to his ability to make campaign contributions.
However, his political largesse landed him in trouble in 2010.
He pleaded guilty to violating state campaign finance law after paying in excess of state contribution limits for a poll for former Baltimore Councilwoman Helen Holton in 2007. Paterakis was fined $25,000 and banned from making political contributions until 2012.
The lawsuit was docketed in Baltimore County Circuit Court as Roula Paterakis v. William J. Paterakis et al., No. O3-C-18001742.
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