November 9, 2022 | By Morgan Smith
McCathern Houston Co-Managing Partner Rodney L. Drinnon has scored a significant verdict for his clients, Osama Abdullatif and Abdullatif & Company, LLC (“ACLLC”), alongside attorneys Allan Goldstein and David Clark, in a nearly decade-long lawsuit against Ali Choudhri. A Harris County jury has rewarded significant damages to Mr. Drinnon’s clients and a verdict was rendered against the Defendants in the prolonged case.
As background, in 2009, Ali Choudhri and his father asked their family friend, Houston real estate investor Osama Abdullatif, to help them pay back a note from Sterling Bank. The note had been used by their company, Houston Real Estate Properties, LLC (“HREP”), to acquire nine properties which were at risk of foreclosure. Sterling Bank offered Choudhri and his father a 15% discount if the note was paid back by a specific date. They approached Abdullatif and promised that if he purchased the note, they would sell off the properties, reimburse him, and pay him half of the 15% savings in return.
After Drinnon’s client purchased the note for $896,000, it came to light that the Defendants had misrepresented their true intentions. They had no plan to sell the properties to pay Abdullatif back and intended to burden Abdullatif with the responsibilities of carrying the cost associated with them. Soon after, Choudhri and his father convinced Abdullatif to purchase not only the note but also the properties from them so he could refinance the note through his extensive banking connections. They agreed they would continue to pay Abdullatif’s indebtedness while managing and collecting the rents. Abdullatif and ACLLC purchased the nine properties for $1,750,000 with a $1,100,000 loan. HREP managed to pay a portion of their monthly amounts owed to Abdullatif for one year between February 2010-2011.
In March 2011, Choudhri again refused to honor his agreement with Abdullatif and stopped making his monthly payments. Having seen that Choudhri would not keep his word, Abdullatif decided to sell the properties to minimize his losses as a result of Choudhri’s misrepresentation. When Drinnon’s client entered into an agreement to sell the first property, Choudhri filed a “Fraudulent Lien Affidavit” on HREP Properties and a property owned by Abdullatif’s company, ACLLC. He falsely claimed that he had received an additional promissory note from Abdullatif on February 10, 2010, for $1,500,000 with an annual interest rate of 8% to 18% and that he allegedly failed to pay him back. Coincidentally, Choudhri owed $1,950,000 in a separate lawsuit when he filed the fraudulent affidavit.
McCathern attorneys Rodney Drinnon and David Clark were brought on to the case in August of 2022 to join forces with Abdulatiff’s personal attorney, Allan Goldstein, a week before the trial date. Drinnon’s comprehensive knowledge of Choudhri and his tactics were vital to their uphill battle. Additionally, his “no-nonsense” approach and down-to-earth manner were necessary in this high-profile case to counteract the recognition that the opposing counsel, Tony Buzbee, wielded as a local celebrity. Buzbee’s reputation as a formidable plaintiff’s attorney has often translated into an assumed credibility – a credibility which did not transfer to Choudhri. For almost a decade, the Defendants had succeeded in delaying the trial. Over the years, they filed five separate Motions to Continue and had been represented by a revolving door of attorneys. But now that the trial had finally arrived, Abdullatif’s counsel faced one of the most difficult cases a commercial lawyer can encounter: to prove to a jury that a notarized document is fraudulent.
One of the most considerable discrepancies in the Defendants’ case was when asked to produce the notary book, which purportedly contained information about the promissory note, they said it had been lost in a flood – on the second story of a building. In addition, three weeks after the alleged note was initially signed by Abdulatiff, on February 25, 2010 Abdullatif signed a note loaning $400,000 to Choudhri. Considering that this second note was in fact real, the case presented two glaring inconsistencies. Firstly, that Choudhri would loan Abdullatif $1,500,000 only to turn around and ask Abdullatif for a loan of $400,000 three weeks later. If Abdullatif had received a loan from Choudhri, it is peculiar that a request from Choudhri for $400,000 would not have been negotiated as a reduction of $400,000 from the alleged loan itself. Secondly, that Choudhri would ask for a loan from someone who allegedly came to him in financial need.
On August 19, 2022, after an eight-day trial, a jury awarded Abdullatif and ACLLC damages exceeding $4,000,000 plus attorneys’ fees. A verdict was also rendered against the Defendants, finding that Choudhri and HREP committed fraud against Abdullatif, that Choudhri filed a fraudulent lien against the HREP properties and a property owned by ACLLC, and that Abdullatif and Choudhri did not enter into a promissory note on February 10, 2010 – resulting in a significant triumph for Abdullatif and attorneys Drinnon, Clark, and Goldstein in what had been an arduous battle.
Rodney Drinnon continues to represent a number of clients against Choudhri and his various companies in several complex cases – and he has been one of the most successful attorneys doing so. Each of these cases has presented a litany of challenges, and Drinnon has had to fight for a fair trial at every turn. He has not only faced Choudhri’s continued use of delay tactics to avoid trial, but, at one point, he was compelled to file a Motion to Recuse to have Judge Brittanye Morris removed from four cases for her undisclosed relationship with Choudhri. When the relationship first came to light, Morris refused to step aside, requiring the presiding District Judge, Susan Brown, to recuse her.
Nevertheless, Drinnon’s persistence and candor proved to be the most valuable resources in this case, securing a significant win for the client and igniting renewed faith that justice is possible for all those affected by Choudhri’s exploits.
The style of the case is Osama Abdullatif and Abdullatif and Company, LLC v. Ali Choudhri and Houston Real Estate Properties, LLC, cause number 2013-41273 in the 334th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas.