'Smear dressed up as a lawsuit': Defendants respond to money-for-sex lawsuit against Oilers owner
The Hollywood couple behind a defamation lawsuit accusing Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz of offering money for sex say they are not looking for financial gain.
"It's not about the money," Brazilian actor Greice Santo told CBC News in a phone interview Thursday, describing herself as an independent woman trying to succeed in Hollywood.
"Daryl Katz, he's a very powerful, very rich, very connected man and not too many women in my position would do what I am doing.
"I would love him to fly in to L.A. on his private jet and apologize for trying to turn me into a prostitute — that's all," she added.
Santo accuses the billionaire NHL team owner of offering to pay $20,000 per day to see her up to six times a month, a proposal she says was largely facilitated through his associate, Michael Gelmon.
She says when they found out she told a mutual acquaintance about the proposal, she was threatened.
Gelmon warned her that Katz's head of security indicated they would make sure she didn't work in Hollywood again, she said.
"That scared me, that scared the hell out of me that he could potentially really damage my career," said Santo, who filed a complaint in July 2016 with police in Hawaii, where the initial offer was allegedly made during a photo shoot several months earlier.
"I prayed a lot and I asked for guidance to help me through this and make the right decision."
While the complaint never resulted in criminal charges, those allegations are now part of the defamation lawsuit launched on April 2 in New York by Santo's husband, R.J. Cipriani.
Cipriani, who goes by the name Robin Hood 702, accuses public relations crisis management firm G.F. Bunting+Co of falsely telling the New York Post he tried to extort money from Katz and/or Gelmon.
He said it derailed a story he had pitched about his wife receiving wire transfers totalling $35,000 from Gelmon's company.
Santo told CBC News she reluctantly accepted that money, but used it to start her charity, Glam, with Greice to help battered and bullied women.
A statement of defence has not been filed and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
False and malicious assertions
Bunting and Gelmon didn't respond to requests for comment, but Oilers Entertainment Group provided a statement from Katz's lawyer.
"Robert J. Cipriani is a convicted felon who has been menacing Mr. Katz and his family for more than a year. The allegations in the complaint filed against Mr. Bunting and his company, and the assertions made in that document about Mr. Katz, are false, malicious and entirely without merit," the statement said.
"Moreover, it is plain as day that this so-called complaint was filed solely as bait for the media as part of an ongoing effort by Cipriani to harass, embarrass and possibly extort Mr. Katz, exactly as Cipriani has done with other prominent individuals."
Court documents show Cipriani pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in 2005, which he admits.
While the lawsuit seeks a trial by jury that could award financial damages, Cipriani, a professional gambler, said if Katz had apologized early on, "it would have been over."
"I don't need his money," Cipriani said. "To me, it's dirty money."
He said he wants a public retraction from Bunting and a face-to-face apology from Katz.