By WILL ASTOR
A Massachusetts filmmaker who invested in an Internet car-shopping venture launched by area car dealers Anthony and John Gabriele wants his money back.
Best known locally as owners of Marina Dodge in Webster, the Gabrieles launched CarZoom.com LLC in September 2009. The business, based in Sarasota, Fla., shut down last year.
Press materials when the Internet venture was launched described CarZoom's vehicle-search website as an automotive version of Google.com or Priceline.com that would link buyers to multiple websites offering used vehicles.
In a lawsuit filed Feb. 19 in U.S. District Court in Rochester, filmmaker Cevin Soling says he put $100,000 into CarZoom in 2008 and has seen no return on the investment. Soling alleges misappropriation of funds by the Gabrieles.
Calling those allegations "totally false," Anthony Gabriele promised in an interview last week to mount a vigorous defense against the filmmaker's lawsuit.
Soling's directorial film credits include the documentaries "The War on the War on Drugs" and "The War on Kids," respectively winners of the 2004 best experimental feature film and 2009 best educational documentary awards at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. He also wrote and directed "Boris the Dog," a macabre 1998 cartoon aired on MTV.
Soling's complaint says the Gabrieles promised to use the money he invested in CarZoom to help the venture develop a national marketing plan and proprietary software to power search-engine technology for auto buyers. The filmmaker contends in the complaint that the local auto dealers, who are brothers-in-law related only by marriage, did not use his money as they promised and have refused to let him see books and records that might prove otherwise.
Identifying Anthony Gabriele as CarZoom's majority owner and controlling partner, Soling alleges in court papers that the Gabrieles allowed "misappropriation of (Soling's) investment and other company funds for the personal benefit of defendant Anthony M. Gabriele."
He and his brother-in-law and business partner, John, sank considerably more money into CarZoom than Soling, Anthony Gabriele said. They provided Soling with monthly operating statements and sent dividends and other payments to the filmmaker while the business was operating, he added.
Soling seeks return of his initial $100,000 investment along with $200,000 in punitive damages.
"You can sue for anything," Gabriele said. "We have records to prove everything."
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