Barristers, Bankers Left Sniffing the Petros Cork

by Don Harkins

At one point during the ongoing and perpetually harassive litigation being levied against Petros (Pete) Elipulos and Petros Winery, a huge and ultimately comical bankruptcy court battle took place in which the bank wanted to claim ownership of the Petros Winery $1.5 million inventory of wine in the Northwest Land Management (NLM) bankruptcy proceedings...

The ongoing litigation against Eliopulos, which began in 1987, is apparently retribution against the winemaker for daring to expose the provably illegal and blatantly corrupt activities of the Idaho First/West One/US Bank bankers, Federal Judge Edward Lodge and an alarmingly large supporting cast of state and federal government agency characters (see Idaho Department of Finance Kills Company Without Cause, which begins on page one).

The bank wanted to have the bankruptcy court mandate control of the Petros Winery inventory of 20,000 cases (240,000 bottles) of wine to the bank as a salable asset in the NLM bankruptcy proceedings in March, 1988. "The bank was halfway to gaining control of my wine because the wine was already in the possession of state trustee Bernie Rakozy and an alliance between Rakozy and the bank’s well-paid attorneys was not a secret," said Eliopulos.

Sensing that a problem was developing by how the bank was handling NLM’s commercial bank loan, Eliopulos formed Petros Winery, Inc., in California prior to the bank attempting to steal Petros Winery assets through court actions he saw looming on the horizon against NLM.

The California corporation became the legal owner of the name and style of Petros. Eliopulos, as president of Petros California, entered into a marketing and licensing contract of the Petros brand with Eliopulos as president of NLM, an Idaho corporation. In the event of a default by NLM, the contract demanded protection of the Petros name in the interest of the California corporation.

The bank noticed another hearing of the matter in federal bankruptcy court before Judge Alfred Hagen on June 29, 1988. Eliopulos was called to testify as president of NLM because he had adamantly resisted Rakozy and the bank’s attempts to gain control of the Petros wine inventory.

During the cross-examination by the bank’s well-heeled attorneys Eliopulos informed Judge Hagen that he had suddenly experienced a change of heart regarding his position to resist the bank’s control of the wine. He said in open court that the bank could have the wine as long as the Petros name, which was protected contractually, was not used to market the wine.

"You should have seen the smug looks and smiles on the faces of the bank’s attorneys. They were already pulling corks and toasting their success in legally stealing over $1 million worth of wine for the bank in bankruptcy court. The attorneys were overjoyed and the judge asked me if I was certain of my statement of record," Eliopulos remembers with a smile.

Eliopulos assured the judge he was certain and yes, the bank could have the wine. The attorneys assured the court that the bank would soak off any labels with the Petros name.

Eliopulos reiterated that he would offer no further resistance to the banks attempts to control and sell the wine inventory so long as the Petros name was not used. He then informed the court that the Petros name was also branded into the corks.

"You could tell the bank’s attorneys were getting a little nervous--like they had just walked into a trap," recalled Eliopulos, who then produced the legal and binding contract between Petros California and NLM.

Judge Hagen asked Eliopulos what effect de-corking and re-corking the wine inventory would have on the wine. Eliopulos said, "In my opinion, the wine would be ruined."

"The looks on the faces of those attorneys when I told them that de-corking and re-corking the wine would ruin it is one of the most satisfying moments of my life," Eliopulos said. For the next six months the bank, its attorneys and State Trustee Rakozy tried without success to void the contract between Petros California and NLM.

The result of all the bank’s maneuvering and its cozy relationship with Rakozy was that Petros wines were held in bonded storage at a near perfect 55 degrees, at the bank’s expense and was released to Eliopulos as perfectly (litigation) aged wines which were ready for market.

Touche’--One thousand cases of the litigation-aged wine became the infamous Boise Bankers Blush and the Boise Barristers Blush (The Idaho Observer, January, 1997)--complimentary bottles of which have been served, with a subpoena, to all of the bankers and barristers who have been trying for the last ten years to ruin Eliopulos’ life.