Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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Suit says Stupak sold hotel, owes exec

Has Bob Stupak sold the Thunderbird hotel?

The Thunderbird's former general manager claims that he has -- and he's demanding a $250,000 cut of the proceeds in court.

Stupak could not be reached for comment on whether the hotel has been sold and his attorney declined comment.

Michael Robert Flores, who was fired as the Thunderbird's GM on Oct. 18, said in a Nov. 24 lawsuit that Stupak sold the property in October for $5 million.

Flores identified the buyer of the 300-room hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard as Doug DaSilva, who owns Casa Palms Apartments on North Las Vegas Boulevard. When contacted through the Thunderbird, DaSilva said he could not comment on the alleged sale because of outstanding litigation.

Flores' lawsuit details a bizarre string of circumstances that led to his abrupt firing on Oct. 18. Flores claims he was the one that brokered the sale of the Thunderbird to DaSilva, and claims he had a written agreement with Stupak that entitled him to 5 percent of the gross sale proceeds -- about $250,000, if the $5 million sale price is accurate.

Flores also claims he and Stupak reached an agreement in January 1999 -- the time Flores returned as general manager -- to split the net profits of the Thunderbird 50-50. Flores claims he's been paid more than $66,000 to date, but says Stupak still owed him $87,850 at the time of his October firing.

In his lawsuit, Flores asked the court to garnish the disputed funds from the escrow account established for the sale of the Thunderbird. He said he's willing to post a $400,000 bond to secure any judgment.

According to an affidavit by Flores, Stupak and Flores have been friends and business associates for more than 20 years. This led Stupak to hire Flores as general manager of the Thunderbird in February 1995, at a rate of $10,000 per month.

On Oct. 9, 1997, Flores claims he was told by Stupak that Stupak wanted to replace him with Sandy Blumen, Stupak's ex-wife. After his firing, Flores said he and Stupak did not speak for the next year.

But in October 1998, Flores said he was contacted by Stupak's attorney, Michael Mushkin, who told him Stupak wanted to make amends. After two months of negotiations, Flores said he and Stupak agreed that Flores would return as general manager of the property, receiving 50 percent of the property's net income.

To back up this claim, Flores provided a handwritten letter, supposedly from Stupak. Dated Jan. 4, 1999, the letter reads, "You do not work for nothing. You will receive 50% of the profits of the Thunder Bird."

Flores also provided a typewritten legal agreement stating these terms, but this document was not signed by Stupak or Flores.

Prior to his tenure, Flores claims the hotel was losing $80,000 a month, a figure he says was provided by both Stupak and the hotel's former accountant. By October of this year, Flores claims, the hotel's gross income had increased from $15,000 a month to $140,000 a month.

By Flores' reckoning, the Thunderbird recorded gross income of $1.24 million from January to October 12, 1999, and net income of $308,716. Flores claims this entitles him to total payments of $154,358.

By September, Flores alleges, Stupak had decided not to build his proposed "Titanic" themed megaresort on the Thunderbird property. He then instructed Flores to begin marketing the Thunderbird to potential buyers, Flores claims.

In September, Flores claims he and Stupak reached an agreement that would provide him with a 5 percent cut of the gross sale price of the Thunderbird. Flores provided a typed, legal document outlining this agreement. Dated Sept. 23, the copy of this document does have signatures from Stupak and Flores, but the Stupak signature on this document is markedly different from the signature on the January note.

In September, Flores claims he successfully negotiated the sale of the Thunderbird to DaSilva and his partners, and received a letter of intent on the property's sale. After this letter was forwarded to Stupak, Flores accuses Stupak of calling DaSilva and telling him not to contact Flores anymore.

On Oct. 18, a man Flores identifies as "Arthur Petrie" came into his office and allegedly told Flores that he had bought the Thunderbird, and ordered him to leave the property immediately. Flores said he was immediately escorted out of the hotel by two armed guards. Since this time, Flores claims, DaSilva has assumed daily operations of the Thunderbird.

Flores accused Stupak in his affidavit of engaging in a "conniving path of deception and deceit" designed to keep him from collecting on previously agreed-upon payments.

He also said he's not trying to interfere with the property's sale, but "simply wants to be paid what I am rightfully entitled to receive."

In a bizarre twist to the case, Flores' attorney, Timothy McGarry, filed a second lawsuit against Stupak simultaneously. This lawsuit, brought on behalf of Michael Mushkin & Associates -- the law firm that allegedly brokered the initial contact between Flores and Stupak -- claims that Stupak owes the firm more than $139,000 in unpaid legal fees.

Stupak is now represented by attorney Jim Jimmerson, who said he could not comment on the Flores case.