California businessman alleges Chicago lawyer helped Indian business partner freeze him out of LLC

By Scott Holland | Jun 20, 2015

A $6 million lawsuit against a lawyer who allegedly helped a resident of India improperly freeze out her American business partner moved to federal court in Chicago earlier this month.

James Zachman, of La Quinta, Calif., originally filed his complaint against attorney Rishi Vohra, with addresses in Chicago and Hinsdale, in Cook County Circuit Court in May. Zachman was representing himself at the time.

According to Zachman’s complaint, Vohra provided “substantial assistance” to Sangeeta Chhabra, Zachman’s partner in a limited liability corporation called Real Time Data Services, resulting in Zachman losing his half of profits and ownerships in the 10-year-old data firm.

According to Zachman, Vohra opened a Citibank business account for Data Services, ostensibly on behalf of Zachman and Chhabra. Zachman maintains this was unauthorized and said Vohra knew the account “contained materially false representation about his authority and knowledge that the account was going to be used to route money directly to India.”

Zachman said Vohra knew Chhabra was ineligible for this account because she is a nonresident alien, and his complaint accused Vohra of perjury for knowingly supplying false information to Citibank. The LLC operating agreement purportedly required Zachman’s consent to open the account, which he never granted.

Once the account was open, Zachman continued, Chhabra was able to “fraudulently merge, cash-out and transfer” Zachman’s assets to a new LLC, this one named Real Time Cloud Services, all with the “substantial assistance” of Vohra. Zachman learned of the account nearly three years after it opened.

Zachman brought legal action against Vohra because the lawyer essentially controls Zachman’s assets. Because Chhabra lives in India, she has been able to avoid his repeated attempts to file complaints naming her as a defendant.

As part of the Vohra lawsuit, Zachman seeks accounting information dating to June 2012 for Data Services and Cloud Services, proceeds generated from Zachman’s assets and damages of $6 million.

He is seeking a jury trial.

Real Time Data Services was established in July 2005, and Zachman and Chhabra entered into the LLC operating agreement the following March, agreeing to a 50-50 split on profits, voting rights and full access to accounting records for accounts in the United States and India. Zachman was to be the sole manager for American banking activities on behalf of the LLC.

In the spring of 2012, Zachman said, shortly after the annual gross revenues cleared $1 million, he and Chhabra began disputing operational aspects. In May that year, Zachman said Chhabra locked him out of the business’ servers, email accounts and financial data. Just a few days later, she “sent a libelous letter to all 700 clients accusing (Zachman) of financial irregularities and misappropriation.”

Zachman detailed several steps in which he feels Vohra’s legal relationship with Chhabra was inappropriate, including his failure to question why a $1 million U.S. company was in sudden need of someone to conduct American banking activities, failure to perform a “duty of care” and a lack of information about what happened after a special power of attorney was supposed to lapse on Sept. 5, 2012.

Data Services paid Vohra $1,721.64, according to Zachman.

The complaint says nearly $400,000 was routed to the Citibank account from May through October 2012 and that Zachman’s attempts to contact Vohra were largely fruitless.

After an initial status hearing June 16, Vohra was permitted to remove the case from Cook County Circuit Court to federal court for several reasons, including the parties residing in different states and the damages Zachman seeks exceeding the circuit court jurisdictional amount.

Vohra is represented by attorneys Sara E. Cook and Kristin D. Tauras, of McKenna Storer, of Woodstock.

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