A Chicago federal judge has signed off on an order granting Chicago-based produce wholesaler operational control of a chain of suburban supermarkets, including the immediate closure of the chain’s Elk Grove store, as the food supplier sues to collect $3.6 million owed by Joe Caputo and Sons supermarkets for fruits, vegetables and other foods the grocer has received but never paid for.
On Feb. 11, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued a temporary restraining order requested by Anthony Marano Company, effectively giving the wholesaler the power to liquidate Caputo’s inventory and other assets until it has extracted the full amount it is owed.
The order comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed the day before by Marano against Caputo’s, which, prior to the lawsuit, operated four supermarkets in the northwest Chicago suburbs of Des Plaines, Palatine, Algonquin and Elk Grove Village. At its peak, the chain also operated stores in Arlington Heights and Northbrook, but those stores closed last year.
Marano, which is based just north of the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) on South Ashland Avenue on Chicago’s West Side, bills itself on its website as the largest supplier of fresh produce in the Midwest.
According to Marano’s lawsuit, Caputo’s had failed to pay for shipments of produce received at its stores since June 2015. When Marano attempted to collect on the unpaid bills, the lawsuit said Caputo’s claimed it did not have the funds on hand to pay them. The court documents also noted Caputo’s has also failed to pay other suppliers, as well.
Marano said this violated federal law, which requires grocers like Caputo’s to hold sufficient funds in trust to pay its perishable food suppliers upon demand.
The judge agreed, granting Marano the power to open Caputo’s financial records and assume control of the grocer’s assets until it has collected on the debt.
The order specifically granted Marano the power to close Caputo’s Elk Grove location and liquidate or transfer its inventory, and to keep Caputo’s Northbrook and Arlington Heights closed, at Marano’s discretion.
According to a report published in the Daily Herald, the mayor of Elk Grove Village said he was told the Elk Grove store would close Sunday, Feb. 14.
The court order did not specify the fate of the other stores, but the order also gave Marano, through its attorneys, the power to “delegate the day-to-day operations of the Des Plaines, Palatine, Algonquin, Northbrook, Arlington Heights, and Elk Grove stores until payment in full is received, a sale of a particular store occurs, or a complete liquidation of all the stores’ assets occurs.”
Marano was represented in the action by attorney Robert B. Marcus, of the firm of Maksimovich & Associates, of Lyons.