The lawsuits continue to pile up for Bitwise Industries, weeks after GV Wire first reported news of its financial troubles.
At least two new lawsuits emerged regarding the financial fallout at the Fresno-based national tech and real estate company. One new suit involves a Fresno marketing company and the other is a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of employees in New York and California.
Fresno Marketing Company Claims Fraud
Fresno-based marketing company Catalyst Communications alleges it loaned Bitwise $200,000, based on claims that the company had annual revenues of $200 million, and $65 million cash on hand.
“These claims of financial strength and reliability were completely and utterly false,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also accuses former co-CEO Jake Soberal of diverting “corporate funds and assets for his own personal use.”
Soberal allegedly emailed Catalyst CEO Mark Astone on May 10, 2023, seeking a loan. The terms were for 120 days, at 15% interest. Catalyst sent the money a day later, according to court documents.
The terms are similar to other bridge loan pitches that Soberal made to Fresno-area business leaders previously reported by GV Wire. Astone is the first to go on the record through his lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed June 1 in Fresno County Superior Court. BW Industries, Inc. — Bitwise’s parent company — and Soberal are listed as defendants.
Catalyst Seeks Restraining Order
Catalyst accuses Soberal and BW Industries of fraud, and the company is asking a judge for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against Bitwise bank accounts. It also requests access to Bitwise records. Bitwise backed the loan with a “corporate guarantee,” the lawsuit alleges.
The first court date, for a case management conference, is scheduled for Sept. 27 in front of Judge Robert Mangano. Catalyst is represented by Fresno attorney Brian Folland.
Catalyst is seeking a minimum of $500,000 in punitive damages, on top of at least $25,000 in compensatory damages.
The Catalyst lawsuit was first reported by the SJV Sun.
After reports of problems paying property taxes and rent, Bitwise furloughed all employees on May 29. The board of directors fired co-CEOs Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. on June 2.
Bitwise representatives did not reply to a request for comment. An email sent to Soberal bounced back.
New York, California Employees Sue
A federal lawsuit on behalf of three former employees alleges that Bitwise and its related company AlphaWorks Technologies, LLC violated the federal WARN Act — requiring a minimum period for the company to notify employees and government authorities of an impending furlough/layoff.
The lawsuit also claims violations of state labor codes.
The plaintiffs include Andrew Nunn, listed as director of operations for Bitwise’s operation in Buffalo, New York. The two others worked remotely and out of the Fresno office.
The lawsuit was filed in Fresno’s federal courthouse. The plaintiffs are represented by Westlake Village-based Gail Lin, and New York City-based Jack Raisner and Rene Roupinian, all from the law firm of Raisnner Roupinian LLP.
A scheduling conference is set for Oct. 3 in front of federal Magistrate Judge Stanley Bone.
At Least Four Other Lawsuits
Bitwise faces at least three other active lawsuits:
- Fresno employees suing for Bitwise not following state law in the furloughs/layoffs;
- Business partner NICbyte LLC suing, alleging Bitwise breached its contract when it attempted to sell a building they jointly owned, the State Center Warehouse;
- Businessman Chase Carter is suing, alleging Bitwise muscled him out of his own tech company, which the two partnered on.
Two previous lawsuits against Bitwise — one by another set of business partners in buying and refurbishing the State Center Warehouse and one by a New York firm about a tax-credit transaction — were settled out of court.