Money Centers ordered to repay millions to tribe

Posted: December 05, 2013

A federal court in Minnesota has ordered a Montgomery County company that provides check-cashing and other financial services in American Indian casinos to repay $5.62 million plus 10 percent annual interest to a Minnesota tribe.

Money Centers of America Inc., of King of Prussia, had a contract under which it received cash advances from Corporate Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians to supply cash to gamblers in two casinos.

Money Centers was supposed to repay the advances within a certain number of days, but over three years, starting in 2009, it fell behind. When the Ojibwe pulled the plug on the business relationship last year, Money Centers still owed the tribe $5.62 million.

The award Monday to the Mille Lacs Band was Money Centers' second court loss to an American Indian group in recent months. Based on similar circumstances, Money Centers in September was ordered by a tribal court to pay $4.78 million to the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin.

Money Centers' founder and chief executive, Christopher Wolfington, declined to comment in detail Tuesday. "I'm not allowed to discuss any of it until it's resolved, which is many months away," he said.

The company's lawyers at Duane Morris L.P. also declined to comment.

Wolfington is a member of a prominent family that in the early 20th century owned an auto-body manufacturer in Philadelphia. A firm called Wolfington Body Co. is a school bus distributor in Exton.

Despite the name of their target, it's unlikely that the tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin will be able to extract money from Money Centers.

In 2006, Money Centers borrowed $4.75 million from Baena Advisors L.L.C., a entity established by Wolfington's brother, Sean, specifically to make the loan. Between 2008 and 2010, Money Centers made only a few payments of $50,000 each on the loan and still owed $4.55 million in March, according to court documents.

Upper Merion Township sued Money Centers this year for $40,785 in back taxes, penalties, and interest for 2007 through 2011. A compliance audit showed that Money Centers' gross receipts had plummeted to $4.49 million in 2011 from $16.43 million in 2009.

Given the financial condition of Money Centers, the Mille Lacs Band has attempted to cast a wider net to retrieve its money.

First, the Mille Lacs Band, which declined to discuss the litigation, attempted unsuccessfully to draw Sean Wolfington into the lawsuit.

Sean Wolfington, an automotive marketing entrepreneur in Florida, attracted attention in celebrity-watching circles in 2006 when he bought Cher's house in Key Biscayne, Fla., for $8.8 million.

Lawyers for the Mille Lacs Band, which operates two casinos, are asking a federal judge to hold Chris Wolfington personally liable for the amount Money Centers owes the tribe.

This attempt "to pierce the corporate veil" also aims at Mark Wolfington, a cousin who became chief operating officer of Money Centers in 2010.

It's not clear how rich the targets are.

Chris Wolfington's real estate company, Real Estate Empowered L.L.C., has lost several properties to foreclosure or in similar transactions since 2011.

A sticking point in the litigation is the fact that Money Centers advanced $63,000 in salary to Mark Wolfington so he could pay delinquent taxes.

The Mille Lacs Band called that payment fraud.

Money Centers called the 2012 payment a legitimate business expense because otherwise the company could not get a license in Louisiana.


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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