April 19, 2017 7:44 pm
Updated: April 19, 2017 7:51 pm

Money-for-sex allegation against Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz a ‘smear’: lawyers

Daryl Katz of the Edmonton Oilers photographed in 2009, and 'Jane the Virgin' actor Greice Santo in 2016.

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Lawyers representing Canadian billionaire Daryl Katz‘s strategic communications firm have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the Edmonton Oilers‘ owner of offering Brazilian model and actor Greice Santo “millions” of dollars and a movie role in exchange for sex.

In court documents filed in New York on April 13, Glenn Bunting and G.F. Bunting & Co. called the allegation “a smear dressed up as a lawsuit.”

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“The whole point of this so-called ‘litigation’ is to use publicity rooted in falsehoods to inflict reputational damage-and that also is its genesis,” the motion reads.

A defamation lawsuit filed earlier this month by Santo’s husband, R.J. Cipriani, alleges that Katz offered Santo money for sex during a photo shoot for Viva Glam magazine in Hawaii in November 2015.

“He would pay me 20 thousand per day and would see me 5-6 times a month,” said Santo in a handwritten complaint to the Hawaii police, according to the lawsuit.

She also said she was invited to Katz’s hotel suite at the Four Seasons Resort, with a promise that he would help her career.

“Katz said he could put me in a big role that would change my life and then switched the conversation and said he rather give me money,” Santo wrote. She reportedly asked what she would have to do in exchange, and was told, “I’m looking for companionship and sex.”

According to the lawsuit, she claims she politely turned down the offer, but she alleges Katz and his cousin Michael Gelmon continued to try to change her mind, despite the fact that she was married.

Santo claims to have received a total of $35,000 in wire transfers from Katz and Gelmon, according to the lawsuit. No charges were ever laid against Katz based on Santo’s accusations.

Cipriani filed the suit against crisis consulting firm G.F. Bunting & Co., which was reportedly hired by Katz to kill a damaging story that would have run in the New York Post. (Neither Katz nor Gelmon are named as defendants in the lawsuit.)

Cipriani is suing Bunting for allegedly causing irreparable harm to his reputation after the story was killed to allegedly benefit his client, Katz. Cipriani is using Santo’s police report as an exhibit in his suit.

The lawsuit accuses Bunting of falsely telling the paper’s business editor, Richard Wilner, that Cipriani was attempting to extort money from Katz, Gelmon or both men and destroying any chance of the story running about the wire transfers “and its more nefarious related backstory.”

According to Variety, Katz’s lawyers are accusing Cipriani and Santo of extortion, alleging the couple attempted to take $3 million from Katz in exchange for her silence about his offer. Katz doesn’t deny meeting with Santo, but he has alleged that some elements of her story have been misconstrued, according to the Variety report.

READ MORE: Greice Santo, ‘Jane The Virgin’ actor, accuses Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz of offering movie role for sex

The motion to dismiss filed by G.F. Bunting & Co. accuses Cipriani of attempting to “leverage a bogus legal claim and threat of a destructive media attack to extract millions of dollars from defendants’ client, Canadian billionaire Daryl Katz.”

“This lawsuit is, in truth, a ruse designed to enable Plaintiff (Cipriani) to publicize offensive and false claims against Mr. Katz and to malign Glenn F. Bunting and his firm in the process.”

“Ms. Santo would claim that, at the meeting in Hawaii, Mr. Katz offered her money in exchange for sex… Mr. Katz and Mr. Gelmon strenuously deny this allegation.”

The motion states the lawsuit should be dismissed for four reasons, including that Cipriani “hatched an extortion plot against Mr. Katz.”

“Leveraging a meritless civil claim for monetary payment is, by any legal definition, extortion.”

The papers also state the lawsuit should be dismissed because Cirpriani cannot “plausibly plead, much less ever actually prove” Bunting behaved in a “grossly irresponsible” manner in his communications with New York Post business editor Wilner.

The motion to dismiss includes a legal letter to Cipriani from Denver, Colo. lawyer Patrick J. Burke – who represents Gelmon – which alleges “witnesses to what happened on the 2015 photo shoot in Hawaii have a different account of events” and that “Ms. Santo asked for money from Mr. Gelmon and Mr.
Katz.”

The letter alleges Santo sent provocative pictures of herself and suggestive messages to Gelmon. It also claims Santo sent Katz an unsolicited Valentine’s Day message.

“When one sees the entire series of communications, a different picture emerges from the one you have tried to paint,” read the letter dated July 9, 2016.

After the original lawsuit was filed, a spokesperson with the Oilers Entertainment Group forwarded a statement to Global News from Katz’s lawyer Dennis A. Roach, saying:

“Robert J. Cipriani is a convicted felon who has been menacing Mr. Katz and his family for more than a year. The allegations in the complaint filed against Mr. Bunting and his company, and the assertions made in that document about Mr. Katz, are false, malicious and entirely without merit.

“Moreover, it is plain as day that this so-called complaint was filed solely as bait for the media as part of an ongoing effort by Cipriani to harass, embarrass and possibly extort Mr. Katz, exactly as Cipriani has done with other prominent individuals.”

Now that the motion to dismiss has been filed, a judge will review it and the original lawsuit and decide what happens next. This process is expected to take a few months. If the motion to dismiss is denied, there is a chance to appeal.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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