Norwich City Council candidate Grillo faces criminal and civil complaints
NORWICH – A longtime resident and local business owner running for city council is currently facing charges in a New London court for allegedly issuing bad checks to former employees – the criminal allegations s ‘Adding to a series of civil lawsuits filed against him claiming the candidate the company owes the plaintiffs money.
Michael D. Grillo, 27, a Republican city council candidate for the upcoming November 2 election, operates a Norwich-based facility maintenance company and has denied any wrongdoing in the criminal case, telling the Bulletin the Last week he expected prosecutors to drop the charges during his next court appearance on November 15.
“There isn’t a single employee who works here or who has worked here that I know of who has never left unpaid,” Grillo said.
Court documents obtained this week show New London police arrested Grillo in October last year after two of his employees cashed bad paychecks at a check cashing business in New London.
According to an affidavit filed by a detective with the New London Police Department, the owner of United Check Cashing told police he contacted Grillo about the missing funds who responded by saying that the Core Plus Federal Credit Union , the entity from which the checks were drawn, told him, “that payment was made for the checks in question so [he] felt he was not responsible. The owner said he continued to call Grillo who reportedly said: “He would call him back to discuss the matter, but never did.”
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When the detective sent Grillo copies of the “bank rejection forms” that were sent to the owner of the check-cashing business, Grillo “said he was meeting with the bank’s finance manager to discuss the matter. question, “according to court documents. Grillo later told police he spoke to the credit union “and was told the problem was probably a problem with the routing numbers.”
According to his affidavit, the detective checked with the security officer of Core Plus Credit Union who informed him: “He did not see anything that would lead him to believe that it was a problem with the accounting routing numbers. He added that it appears that the checks in question were drawn on an account that did not have the necessary funds. “
The investigation took a turn in January 2020 when an employee who initially cashed one of the faulty checks told the detective that “she couldn’t continue working for M&M Group’s Michael Grillo after a new problem.[s] with getting paid and problems with [Grillo] move money or deny him access to bank accounts to complete his job, ”according to the affidavit.
The following month, court documents show that the detective sought an arrest warrant for Grillo based on the belief that he “fully intended to defraud United Check Cashing” because the owner of the ‘Norwich company’ issued the checks knowing the funds were not available. in his account and the continued failure to correct the problems.
The criminal charges add to a string of civil lawsuits naming Grillo as a defendant that date back to 2018, when Connecticut-based commercial debt buyer TBF Financial, Inc. accused Grillo and his uncle, Jeffery Emmerich of raping an equipment financing deal, according to a complaint filed in the case.
In November 2020, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered Grillo and Emmerich to pay $ 52,510.88 to cover the claim and additional attorney fees.
In 2019, lawyers representing Georgian firm Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. sued Grillo, alleging that his company violated an equipment rental agreement and that he owed an unpaid balance of $ 24,456.20.
Grillo told the Bulletin that the case remained open because there was an ongoing dispute over the amount owed to the rental company; but he may need to find new representation after the lawyer representing him in the case, Lawrence H. Adler, filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Oct. 15, court records show.
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In a letter attached to Adler’s request as an exhibit, the lawyer explained to Grillo why he would no longer represent him.
“Unfortunately, you did not pay for the legal services provided, which you authorized and approved,” Adler wrote. “Plus, you didn’t show up for scheduled meetings and you don’t return phone calls. “
“Based on the for[e]come on, I have no choice but to file the attached motion to withdraw from appearance as counsel for you in this matter, ”he added.
Attempts to reach Adler were unsuccessful.
The judge presiding over the civil case has not yet ruled on the petition. The next hearing date has not yet been set.
Using the same language, Adler also decided to opt out of representing his client in another civil action filed by Yantic River Auto Supply on October 19, 2020, alleging that Grillo owed the Norwich-based company $ 6,529.30. .
The next scheduled date in the civil action is scheduled for November 15, 2021.
In the latest civil action filed involving Grillo and his company, Colchester residents Reynold and Lorraine Marvin allege that he and a business partner, Justin Bingham, “borrowed $ 15,000” in a loan agreement signed in December 2019, according to a report. complaint filed in the case. .
The complaint goes on to allege that Grillo and Bingham broke their contract and “failed, neglected and / or refused to repay the maximum principal loan of $ 15,000”.
In a phone conversation on Wednesday, a reporter asked Grillo if he was aware of the latest complaint against him.
“It’s a negative point – you are the first person to tell me that,” he said.
A “shady” business?
In addition to legal issues, The Bulletin interviewed several former employees and local business owners in recent weeks who also claimed that Grillo’s company did not pay them for wages earned or services rendered, with some noting that they had reported their grievances to the Norwich Police Department.
Based on the conversations, a reporter submitted a public record request requesting copies of the “reports and / or investigations” carried out against Michael Grillo this year.
In an email response on Friday, the department’s administrative coordinator said the department could not return the requested documents because “these reports are open investigations that are not publishable.”
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But not all of those interviewed reported their interactions with Grillo to the police. The owner of the Bestway gas station in Franklin, Asif Choudhry, recalled that he paid Grillo’s company $ 4,000 to remove trees and stumps from his property in September 2019.
“He didn’t – he just cut the trees and hauled the trees,” Choudhry said this week. “… He said ‘oh you paid me I’ll come back and finish him but he never came back so I hired someone else to finish him.”
“This guy is fishy,” he added.
Beyond the “shady” business relationships, the basic legal status of Grillo’s facility maintenance company is also unclear.
Formed in 2015, the state enterprise database shows that the M&M Group, LLC was dissolved in January 2020.
Speaking to a reporter, Grillo attributed the dissolution to a mistake made by a former partner who “ticked the wrong box” in attempting to remove his name from the company. Now, instead of M&M Group, the company operates under M&M Landcare, he explained.
But a search of the state’s public database did not reveal any registered companies with that name. A check with the Norwich City Clerk’s Office did not reveal any business names registered at the municipal level by Grillo in the past three years.
Grillo told the Bulletin that he “does not do business under my social security”, adding that “at the moment we are doing business under M&M Landcare”.
On Friday, Grillo confirmed he was the “owner and account manager” of M&M Landcare. To prove that the entity is in good standing, he sent a screenshot of a ‘zoning approval’ issued by the City of Norwich in May 2014, which lists the name and address of his uncle’s residence .
Pressed to obtain information on the legitimacy of the operation of his company, Grillo refused to answer.
“I am not going to allow any publication to print legal entity information and financial information about myself or people with whom I do business,” he said.
“We can choose to do business under any entity, or whatever tax structure we want – that’s obviously my choice.”
“It’s not under my name, like I said, [and] we are not going to go into the legal structure and the way we operate, ”he added.
A candidate worthy of the name?
Despite the criminal, civil and extrajudicial allegations made against him in recent years, Grillo maintains that he is a strong candidate for city council.
“I mean, common sense, it’s true, I haven’t done this in 20 years, that’s it, and the reason I decided to run for city council is because I got my personal property tax and joined the Republican city committee and wanted to get involved and find out why things don’t make sense, right, depending on things in regards to the fire department or whatever, ”he said.
“Contrary to popular belief, regardless of the lawsuits, it’s true, I always operate what I would like to think is a decent business with contracts that I’m more likely to have,” he said. -he adds.
In addition to his resume, Grillo claimed a prominent role he recently played in helping to arbitrate an ongoing arbitration between members of the Norwich Police and the Fire Unions centered on a dispute over how whose sick, personal and vacation leave should be used in the case of officers. and firefighters are kept out of work due to mandatory COVID-19-related quarantines.
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Grillo noted a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the Norwich Firefighters Union that has taken place in recent weeks; stating, “It was a conversation I was able to go back to my party with and they went from not talking to each other to talking to each other.”
Asked for comment on Friday, Norwich Fire Department Local 892 president Michael Podzaline conceded the meeting had taken place but threw water on Grillo’s claim, telling the Bulletin that negotiations had taken place. actually been initiated by a state arbitrator.
“[Michael Grillo] did not help in the COVID case, ”Podzaline said.