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HARLEM RUMBLE

Cyril Josh Barker | 1/17/2013, 1:14 p.m.

Holland says that Lopez-Pierre is misrepresenting their deal. "I think being afraid is putting in mildly. [Lopez-Pierre] has twisted the truth and made is seem like I have this debt with Dominican hard money lenders. It's a total falsehood," Holland said.

Holland and Lopez-Pierre met in April 2010, when Holland's sister and business partner, Lucy Holland-Harden, and her husband, Robert Harden, hired Lopez-Pierre to rent out their 141st Street Harlem brownstone. Holland-Harden told Lopez-Pierre that she and Holland were looking for investors for Uptown Grand, which was already struggling. Holland said that he had looked at other possible investors to help the business, including the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and Carver Bank, but he couldn't close a deal.

"Uptown Grand was launched in 2009 during the recession and the business had financial problems which we had been working through," said Holland. "We put together an investment document and we were active in seeking potential investors from acquaintances, family members and colleagues."

In order to save the restaurant, Lopez-Pierre said that he informed Holland that he had "Dominican associates" in Washington Heights that could loan him $50,000. Lopez-Pierre admits that the Dominicans likely made their money through the drug trade and that he serves as their broker.

"Think of it as an insurance salesman," he said. "I have access to a lot of people who will lend hard money for certain deals. Due to Joe's incompetent business management that was the only way."

Lopez-Pierre describes the process as similar to "ordering a pizza," where large sums of money were dropped in a car or picked up in garbage bags and transported to the receiver. But he also relates the dark side of doing such deals. "The Dominicans failure rate on their payback is only 5 percent. 95 percent of loans are paid. If you don't pay them, they will kill you."

On May 1, 2010, an investment contract was drawn up explaining the conditions of the loan. The contract, obtained by the AmNews, indicates that the $50,000 loan came from Lopez-Pierre Realty, LLC, and no other sources in the 14 outlined provisions. One of the provisions indicates that Holland's company had two years to pay the loan back and that Lopez-Pierre would receive 2 percent ownership in Uptown Grand.

But Holland claims that Lopez-Pierre was not completely honest when he lent him the money. "When he made the investment, he represented that it was his own money," Holland said. "He made no mention of anybody else. No mention of Dominicans or hard money lenders. This is reflected in the agreement where, the only entity is Thomas Lopez-Pierre."

Holland added that Lopez-Pierre told him that he got the $50,000 from money he made in real estate, having had a couple of good years closing some big deals and wanting to start investing.

Lopez-Pierre tells a different tale, saying Holland knew every detail about the Dominican lenders. He says that he never misrepresented his own personal finances, that his average annual income is only $40,000 and that he lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife and three children and could not produce such a large amount of money so quickly.