PORTLAND — The chief executive officer of the company that managed the now bankrupt Great Northern Paper Co. and his wife took the stand Wednesday on the first day of a fraud trial brought against them by a former business associate.

The trial stemming from a 5-year-old $1.6 million judgment against Cate Street Capital CEO John Halle has made public some details about the structure of the multiple corporate entities tied to the New Hampshire-based private equity firm involved in a variety of deals around the country, including the shuttered mill in East Millinocket and a plan for a wood pellet manufacturer in Millinocket and Eastport.

Taking the stand Wednesday, Halle testified that he’s involved in management of about 60 different corporate entities, a fact he said contributed to confusion about whether he was a member or held an ownership stake in certain corporations.

Three of those entities are in question in the federal lawsuit that alleges Halle transferred his interest in certain real estate and other property to his wife, Sharon Halle, to avoid paying the judgment against him, which bounced between decisions and appeals from 2006 to 2009. Richard Davimos won a judgment in New York Supreme Court in 2009 and started pursuing collections in Maine earlier this year.

John Halle has contested in court filings and in the hearing Wednesday that his transfers of assets were not driven by an effort to avoid paying the plaintiff, Davimos, but for estate planning and other legal reasons. That includes a series of complicated transactions related to two airplanes Halle said were used to transport Cate Street Capital executives to and from business meetings around the country.

“We called it a ‘time machine’ because you can be in two places in the same day,” Halle said, referring to the Cessna 340A and Mitsubishi MU-2 Peacock airplanes that Cate Street representatives later used to travel to business meetings.


The planes became a subject of testimony during Wednesday’s court session because they were owned, in part, by companies with corporate filings that had, around the purchase of the second Mitsubishi plane in 2009, indicated Halle as a member, a designation that would imply an ownership interest.

Halle said Wednesday that those documents were wrong to indicate his membership in holding companies — such as Jenis Holding Co. — where he functioned as a manager but did not have any ownership stake.

The timeline of ownership is of particular interest for the attorneys representing Davimos, who in 2009 won a judgment from the top court in New York that Halle should pay him about $1.6 million after he argued Halle arranged to finance the movie “My First Mister.”

For the companies in question, Sharon Halle said Wednesday she is now the sole member. And in the case of an entity such as JH North Hampton Group, which held an ownership stake in the Cessna and another corporation that reportedly owned part of the Mitsubishi plane, the couple said John Halle transferred his interest to his wife on the understanding that he, as a Canadian citizen, could not hold more than a one-third interest in an aircraft registered in the United States.

In other areas, Halle on Wednesday restated testimony that his wife holds many of his assets for estate planning purposes and that, for more than 20 years, he has given his paycheck to her to deposit in checking and savings accounts that are in her name only.

In earlier testimony, Halle said his wife owns Cate Street Capital through another entity called Jenis Investments. She also is the sole member of Jenis Investments, which is the umbrella corporation for Cate Street and a variety of related entities.


Jenis Investments is not a part of the federal fraudulent transfer suit started Wednesday, but another entity, Jenis Holding Co., is a part of it.

The similar names are part of the complex web of corporations started by Halle and operated in some relation to Cate Street Capital.

Halle testified Wednesday that Jenis Holdings has had only a few assets, including a Ford Taurus and a boat called Anger Management that it sold about five years ago for $102,000.

The timeline of those sales and further probing of specific assets will be the subject of the case moving forward. Attorneys for Davimos are seeking to prove Halle owned assets that could have been used to pay his debt to their client and that he transferred them to his wife with the intent to evade payment.

As Davimos’ attorneys seek to connect those dots, it has forced Halle to testify about the rationale behind a variety of personal and business decisions, including the decision to place mortgages on homes in Falmouth and Windham in his wife’s name.

Much of the case has centered on determining just what Halle does, in fact, own. During an earlier testimony, he said he has neither a personal bank account nor any ownership stake in any of the companies that he manages — including Cate Street Capital.

The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday in U.S. District Court as discovery of evidence continues under a confidentiality order in a collections case in state court.

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