Prominent longtime customers of Edina’s Crown Bank, including a former head of Minnesota’s Republican Party and a former state banking commissioner, are accusing its former CEO of tricking them into giving him millions of dollars that he never repaid.
A lawsuit the group filed earlier this week details a series of six-figure loans that Crown founder and former CEO Peter Dahl collected from individuals and business entities the bank dealt with over the past decade. A second suit filed earlier this month says he never fully repaid an additional loan from a Minnetonka bank.
Dahl, who left the bank abruptly in June, signed a consent order with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in December that effectively bars him from working in the industry. He could not be reached for comment.
According to recent court documents and an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, Dahl has asked for a 30-day extension to respond and remains without an attorney of record for the case.
That suit alleges that Dahl had a pattern of borrowing money from one individual or entity and repaying all or a portion of the funds by borrowing from someone else. It said Dahl pressured four individuals, using his position and the bank’s holdings, to make him personal loans and then failed to pay back the $2.8 million owed to three individuals and a fourth person’s companies.
“In reality, Dahl was running a Ponzi scheme, continuously acquiring additional funds of victims in order to make lulling interest payments and convince earlier noteholders that they were making a profit so that they would agree to extend their loan maturity dates and lend more money,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit names both Dahl and Crown Bancshares, which owns Crown Bank, as defendants. The suit alleges the bank board knew of or should have known of Dahl’s alleged activities.
Crown Bank said its relationship with Dahl ceased in May, when he stopped working there. His resignation was announced in June, it said in a statement.
“Each of these lawsuit plaintiffs — based on the bank’s review — are sophisticated and astute business people,” the bank said in a statement through its attorney, Richard Ostlund of the Minneapolis firm Anthony Ostlund. “They were also friends of Mr. Dahl. It appears that they each knew, or should have realized, that they were entering into business deals with Mr. Dahl personally.
“None of their alleged agreements with Mr. Dahl were approved by the bank,” the statement said. “It is the bank’s position that none of these men had any reasonable basis to expect the bank to protect them from losses they now claim to have from their personal financial dealings with — and personal loans to — Mr. Dahl.”
The plaintiffs in the case filed by Minneapolis attorney Christopher Madel are Richard Mast of Bonita Springs, Fla.; Michael Pint on Naples, Fla., former commissioner of banks in Minnesota; Asim Baig of Minneapolis, an investor in several biotech firms; and three companies affiliated with Ronald Eibensteiner, former head of the Minnesota Republican Party.
In a lawsuit filed Jan. 15, Minnetonka-based Minnwest Bank said it loaned Dahl $250,000 in April 2011. The bank said he stopped making payments in April 2017, although he still owes a balance of $83,081.
In the lawsuit filed this week, the plaintiffs allege Dahl used his position at the bank as leverage to convince them to lend them money and that he mixed “legitimate lending and investment activity with his fraudulent borrowing.” He also allegedly misrepresented some of the loans as being for a third party when they were really for him.
The alleged scheme started in 2008 when Mast — a longtime Crown Bank customer, investor and a member of its board of directors until January 2016 — loaned $380,000 to Dahl for a cabin in Crosslake, the lawsuit said.
Subsequently, according to the suit, Dahl added to the loan and several times extended its maturity date.
Mast also made other loans to Dahl and thought he was making even more loans to third parties through Dahl, who showed him forged signatures, the lawsuit alleges.
Dahl had been making regular interest payments on the original loan until July 2017 when Dahl allegedly bounced two checks to Mast, according to the suit.
Dahl has not made interest payments on that loan since that time and still owes at least $1.86 million on all of the outstanding loans, according to the suit.
The suit also says that Pint, a longtime bank customer, made several loans of his own to Dahl in the years after Mast’s loan and also believed he was making loans to third parties.
In October 2016, the lawsuit claims Dahl defaulted on the loans and still owes Pint $200,000.
Eibensteiner and his companies were among the first customers of Crown Bank, the lawsuit said. In June 2015, according to the lawsuit, Dahl asked Eibensteiner to secure a loan for him through his Park Lane firm.
Because Dahl had been making the interest payments on that loan, Eibensteiner in 2016 and 2017 agreed to make two more loans through his Wildwood Capital LLC and another loan through his company, Corporate Services Group. The lawsuit said Dahl owes Eibensteiner’s companies at least $300,000.
Also in 2016, Dahl had a mutual friend introduce him to Baig and help arrange a $100,000 loan to Dahl, the lawsuit said. Dahl paid back that loan.
Baig later that year loaned Dahl another $100,000. After meeting with Dahl in December, he agreed to loan him an additional $120,000. In return, the lawsuit said, Baig would receive $280,000 worth of stock in Crown Bank.
Baig later learned that the shares promised him had been seized by the U.S. marshal’s office in connection with the fraud case against Tom Petters.
Petters is serving time in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme he initiated. Crown Bank also was sued by the court’s trustee in connection with real estate transfers and bank activity initiated by Petters as part of an attempt to recoup money for Petters’ victims.
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926