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Wiesmuller v. Oliver

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 17, 2019

CARY OLIVER, et al., Defendants.

          William L. Campbell, Jr. Judge



         In August 2015, Defendants Cary and Charlene Oliver offered to help their daughter Defendant Corrine Wiesmueller and her husband Plaintiff Christopher L. Wiesmueller buy a house if they moved from their home in Wisconsin closer to the Olivers in Tennessee. The Wiesmuellers took the Olivers up on their offer and moved with their children (the Olivers' grandchildren) to a home that the Olivers purchased in Burns, Tennessee. The Wiesmuellers made monthly payments to the Olivers, which the Olivers applied to the loan they received to buy the house. Thereafter, the Wiesmuellers' marriage deteriorated, and they began divorce proceedings. In the resulting division of the Wiesmuellers' assets, the state court found that the Wiesmuellers rented the house from the Olivers and awarded use of the property to Mrs. Wiesmueller.

         Mr. Wiesmueller now brings this action against Mrs. Wiesmueller and the Olivers under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. Mr. Wiesmueller claims that he was falsely promised ownership of the house and that the defendants committed wire fraud through phone calls, emails, and text messages regarding its purchase and the Wiesmuellers' move to Tennessee. He seeks an order divesting the defendants of their ownership interest in the house and $67, 500.00 in damages, which he calculates to be three times the amount of his anticipated marital share in the house's equity. Mr. Wiesmueller also seeks to hold his wife and in-laws liable under state-law theories of promissory estoppel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         The defendants have filed motions to dismiss arguing that Mr. Wiesmueller fails to state a RICO claim against them and that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state-law claims. (Doc. Nos. 13, 15, 17.) There is, however, a more fundamental problem with Mr. Wiesmueller's action: the RICO claims he asserts are so transparently an effort to alter the outcome of his divorce proceedings that this Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate them. The Magistrate Judge will therefore recommend that Mr. Wiesmueller's RICO claims be dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; that the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Wiesmueller's state-law claims; and that the defendants' motions to dismiss be denied as moot.

         I. Background

         A. Factual History [1]

         In August 2015, the Wiesmuellers hosted the Olivers for a visit in the Wisconsin rental home where they lived with their three children. (Doc. No. 1.) During the visit, the Olivers offered to help the Wiesmuellers buy a house if they moved to Tennessee. (Id.) The Wiesmuellers initially declined but, about a year later, realized that they had “neither the credit scores nor the savings to make homeownership a reality” and asked the Olivers if their offer was still open. (Id. at PageID# 2.) It was, and, on August 14, 2016, the Olivers purchased a house outside of Burns, Tennessee for the Wiesmueller family to live in. (Doc. No. 1.) The Olivers made a $30, 000.00 cash down payment and financed the remainder of the $192, 000.00 purchase price with a fifteen-year loan from Regions Bank that they secured with their own house. (Id.)

         Between August 15 and 22, 2016, the Wiesmuellers and the Olivers communicated via phone, text message, and email regarding the purchase of the house and upcoming move to Tennessee. (Id.) The details of these communications are relevant because Mr. Wiesmueller's RICO claims are premised on the theory that some of these communications amounted to wire fraud. On the morning of August 15, 2016, Mrs. Wiesmueller forwarded Mr. Wiesmueller ten pictures of the interior of the house sent by Mrs. Oliver and told him that the Olivers were going to be calling to talk about “a few things mortgage related.” (Id. at PageID# 3.) Later that day, the Wiesmuellers and the Olivers had a phone conversation in which they discussed the fifteen-year mortgage and the monthly payment of $300. (Id.) The next day, Mrs. Wiesmueller sent Mr. Wiesmueller an email summarizing a conversation with Mr. Oliver regarding the move to Tennessee: “Went well on my end . . . you have to remember he was a banker by trade . . . and he said family first, and financial stability is critical ..... (regarding owning a home).” (Id. (alterations in original).) On August 18, 2016, Mrs. Oliver emailed Mrs. Wiesmueller the following message: “Elizabeth from bank called to say we may be ahead of schedule by almost 2 weeks. Dad said appraiser was at house this morning taking pics. You could be in your new home by September 15th. Now the jobs have to start flowing!!” (Id.) Mrs. Wiesmueller forwarded that message to Mr. Wiesmueller with the caption: “OMG. Eek!” (Id. at PageID# 4.) On August 22, 2016, Mrs. Wiesmueller forwarded Mr. Wiesmueller three emails from Mrs. Oliver, each containing a picture of the exterior of the house. (Id.)

         The Wiesmuellers arrived in Tennessee on September 1, 2016, lived with the Olivers for a month, and moved into the Burns house on October 1, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) For the next ten months, Mr. Wiesmueller stayed home with the children and Mrs. Wiesmueller began a job at which she earned $8, 000.00 more annually than she had made in Wisconsin. (Id.) During that time, the Olivers did not transfer ownership of the Burns house to the Wiesmuellers, nor did they provide a “rent to own” agreement as Mr. Wiesmueller states he had expected. (Id. at PageID# 5.) Each month, through Regions Bank, the Wiesmuellers made payments to the Olivers, who then paid down the mortgage. (Id.) On October 13, 2017, Mrs. Oliver sent two emails to the Wiesmuellers and Mr. Oliver with insurance invoices for the house, which was consistent with the understanding that the Wiesmuellers were “to be responsible for the property taxes and insurance.” (Id.)

         After moving into the house, Mrs. Wiesmueller repeatedly rebuffed Mr. Wiesmueller's requests that she obtain a written agreement regarding ownership of the house from her parents, assuring Mr. Wiesmueller that they could “trust family.” (Id. at PageID# 6.) Mr. Oliver also frequently told Mr. Wiesmueller that, if the Wiesmuellers refinanced the house or paid off the note, they could have the existing equity. (Id.) Relying on those representations and text messages from Mrs. Wiesmueller on April 24, 2017, May 4, 2017, and February 20, 2018, in which she referred to the monthly payment that the Wiesmuellers made through Regions Bank as a “mortgage, ” Mr. Wiesmueller assumed that any increased value in the Burns house would be “marital property” and made “certain improvements to [it] from marital funds, including items ordered online or bought in stores . . . .” (Id. at PageID# 5, 6.)

         In January 2018, the Wiesmuellers' marriage began to collapse, and Mr. Wiesmueller moved in with the Olivers, who “welcomed [him] into their home[ ] as family[.]” (Id. at PageID# 7.) On January 31, 2018, after a week with the Olivers, Mr. Wiesmueller expressed to Mrs. Wiesmueller that he wanted to return to the house. (Id.) After Mrs. Wiesmueller responded that she was not ready for that, the situation escalated, with Mr. Wiesmueller yelling at his wife that she could not stop him from going home. (Id.) Mrs. Oliver intervened, cursing at Mr. Wiesmueller and saying “It's not your house, it's our house, we own it. You can go to the homeless shelter.” (Id.) The altercation caused Mr. Wiesmueller immediate emotional distress. (Doc. No. 1.)

         The Wiesmuellers began divorce proceedings in Tennessee state court in which the house has been “deemed a mere ‘rental home,' . . . with Mrs. Wiesmueller retaining use and possession[, ]” Mr. Wiesmueller states is evidence of his wife and her parents' intent to defraud him. (Id. at PageID# 9.) The state court has also limited Mr. Wiesmueller to supervised visitation with his children. (Doc. No. 35, PageID# 148.) The night before Mr. Wiesmueller filed this lawsuit, he sent Mrs. Wiesmueller an email in which he threatened to sue her and her parents unless she agreed to grant him every other weekend with their children and primary custody. (Doc. No. 35-2, PageID# 161.) Mr. Wiesmueller warned her that this was her “[l]ast chance to conce[de, ]” and threatened to “legally take back EVERYTHING [she] took from [him]” through “shock and awe[ ]” legal tactics. (Id.) On November 9, 2018, three days after Mr. Wiesmueller filed this action, he wrote Mrs. Wiesmueller an email stating:

By the way, I offered to settle for my share of the equity in the marital home in summer. I was being kind. That time has long since past [sic]. I will be clear: no blackmail. There will be no settlement. I will ...

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